It was inevitable once Donald Trump had changed the game – betting an a US Presidential Election would never be the same again. The fields are no longer merely Republican and Democrat politicians but a wide array of characters from popular culture and business.
At this early stage at least, celebrities are the candidates that bettors seem most interested in backing. With one barnstorming Golden Globes speech, Oprah Winfrey is already rated Trump’s closest rival for 2020.
The reaction to Oprah’s speech demonstrates precisely why celebrities increasingly have the edge. She garnered more talk in three days than anyone else among the crowded Democratic Nominee field have managed in a year. Trump won the primary by monopolising media coverage and Oprah would likely have the same effect.
Their highly positive reaction suggests prominent Democrat voices are taking this seriously. This is a party still traumatised by defeat and on course for an incredibly divisive primary involving a vast field – exactly what plunged their opponents into turmoil. They have no clear leader or even front-runner. To many, Oprah would be the panacea. A unifying figure who connects with parts of the electorate nobody else could reach and, while also a billionaire celebrity, the antithesis of Trump.
It’s a safe bet that big Democrat donors and strategists have been sketching out plans since her Golden Globes speech. There will be many voices trying to persuade her and betting interest will persist until she categorically declares no intention to run. I can’t see her Next President odds getting much bigger than the current 13.0 in the short-term given the inevitable speculation. Oprah v Trump is beyond the wildest dreams of media executives.
A less safe bet is that she actually runs. While Winfrey is naturally flattered by the attention and bound to consider it, she has previously said never. Running for president is a gruelling experience, demanding total commitment. The primaries alone are a marathon. Politics inevitably involves taking sides and alienating people. Every word you’ve ever uttered in public will be pored over. Would somebody of her elevated status want to risk the brand built over a lifetime?