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ND Expert: Oprah, Obama and "celebrity politics"

Author: Arts and Letters


Oprah Winfrey’s decision to campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama before the Iowa caucuses “elevates celebrity politics in America to a new level, maybe even a previously unexplored stratosphere,” according to Robert Schmuhl, professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame and author of the book “Statecraft and Stagecraft: American Political Life in the Age of Personality.”

Schmuhl noted that Winfrey’s own celebrity is greater than that of Obama’s, leaving the "possibility of her charisma and star appeal overshadowing his.

“There’s no doubt people listen to her social and literary opinions. Whether her endorsement translates into actual votes is the great political unknown that bears scrutiny.”

He added: “More than anything, her involvement proves once again the centrality of personality in contemporary campaigning. Television is more than a soapbox. It’s the main stage and principal theater, whether we like it or not.”

Note to the media: Schmuhl’s comments may be used in whole or in part. He can be contacted for additional commentary at 574-631-5128 or " "

Originally published by Dennis Brown at on November 28, 2007.