MANCHESTER, N.H.—Oprah Winfrey, after two days on the presidential campaign trail for pal Barack Obama on Sunday was home on the stump, delivering the fourth political speech of her life, flying here from a rally in South Carolina.
“You know, we started out in Iowa last night, I was a little nervous,” said Winfrey to an audience of about 8,500 at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
“I’m beginning to like this. I’m beginning to like this. I’m beginning to like it because I can feel that you are ready for a change.”
Winfrey, relaxed and familiar enough with her stump speech now to be freed from the tyranny of reading from text—which Obama communications chief Robert Gibbs said she wrote herself—riffed at times, pointing out that she brought with her best buddy Gayle King.
She drew parallels between Obama and herself; two self-made figures with strange names who made it to the top. Winfrey confronted Obama’s chief weakness, his lack of experience. Winfrey framed a new argument in appealing to the parents in the crowd
“You can’t be fooled by this experience question,” she said. “And time, because you know it is not the amount of time that you spend with your children, it’s the quality of that time, it’s what you do with that time.”
While Winfrey did not mention any of Obama’s opponents by name, she continued, “And what I know is that experience in the hallways of Washington do not compare to experience on the pathway of life.”
She said later, “where would I be in my life if I waited on people to tell me when it was time?”
A basic element of chief rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) stump speech is talking about the historic nature of her run, that if elected she would be the first female president. Obama does not make race an essential element of every speech. Winfrey talked about diversity to this mainly all-white audience.
“There is a new day. There is a new day a’coming,” said Winfrey. “And we can vote Martin Luther King’s dream into reality,” she said to cheers. “We can vote the dream into reality.
Obama, she said, “He’s the one person he’s not afraid to talk about what race means to this country. Not afraid to talk about it, understands it, and wants us all to come together.
OBAMA ACKNOWLEDGES LABOR TIFF
At the top of his comments, Obama who paces the stage when he talks, returned to the podium to consult his notes. He acknowledged a labor tiff, resolved Friday to avoid pickets on Sunday, prompted by his campaign renting the non-union Verizon venue for the rally.
Obama’s remarks seemed to be the price for getting a pass in booking a hall whose workers are not unionized. He said he invited as special guests stage hands and pointed out that Joyce Cardoza, the business agent for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 195 was in the audience.
He said he seated these “special guests” because “the Verizon Wireless Arena does not hire stagehands who are union workers.”
Last week, New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Mark S. MacKenzie said in a statement, “the NH AFL-CIO working closely with our affiliate, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts, has reached a satisfactory agreement with the campaign. There will not be a picket."
The Manchester Union Leader reported Cardoza said before the agreement,"I am concerned why a candidate would go into a building and not be able to get union help in there. They are going in without a union company bringing in and setting up the equipment."
Said Obama, “This is a great facility and we should have union workers in here to make sure that the stagehands are getting a fair shake. I just want the, I just thought that that was important. 'Cause I believe in workin’ people. I believe in workin’ people. I believe in workin’ people.”
The first-in-the-nation primary here is Jan. 8