Obama’s Appearance on Oprah Seen About ‘Reconnecting’ with Women Voters

President Barack Obama sat for an interview on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” today, getting a friendly forum that appeals to women, one of the key constituencies that helped him win the White House in 2008.

“This visit on the Oprah show is all about reconnecting with women, white, black and Hispanic,” said Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “When Oprah speaks, millions of women listen.”

The program, which is ending next month after 25 years on the air, averages 7 million viewers a day, 75 percent of whom are women, according to Nielsen Co. ratings information through April 17. Fifty-six percent of women voted for Obama in the 2008 presidential election compared with 43 percent who voted for Republican candidate John McCain, according to exit poll results posted on CNN’s website.

Obama’s appearance is scheduled for broadcast on May 2, and Winfrey’s production company embargoed the content until that day, except for excerpts it is distributing. The president went to Winfrey’s Chicago studio after releasing a copy of his long- form birth certificate from Hawaii in an effort to end what he said was the “silliness” of the debate over his citizenship, which was distracting from discussion of the nation’s future.

Birth Certificate

“During the course of this major debate where I gave a big speech and the Republicans voted on their proposal, the biggest news was this birth certificate thing,” Obama said in an excerpt from the show released today by Winfrey’s production company.

Obama said he hoped release of the certificate would put the question to rest.

Since the president filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on April 4 to begin his bid for re-election, he has been traveling across the country to make the case for a second term.

The sluggish economy and an unemployment rate that reached a 26-year high of 10.2 percent nine months after he took office, and is now 8.8 percent, have driven down his approval ratings. In the daily Gallup tracking poll conducted April 23-25, 43 percent of those surveyed said they approved of the job he is doing and 48 percent disapproved. In the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans won control of the U.S. House and gained seats in the Senate.

For 2012, the president is seeking to revive enthusiasm among women and young voters, two groups who were crucial to his victory in 2008.

‘So Much Buzz’

Schiller said Winfrey “generated so much buzz” for Obama in 2008, making it a wise move for him to go on her program as he starts campaigning for 2012.

“He is going to need every single vote he can get,” Schiller said in an interview.

“Clearly this is a way to talk to the constituency that Oprah brings,” said Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University in New York. “One of the tricks he’s got up his sleeves is to go on television shows.”

Obama was joined on the show by his wife, Michelle Obama.

Winfrey is ending her afternoon talk show, which is distributed by CBS Corp. (CBS), to focus on a cable channel she started with Discovery Communications Inc. (DISCA), based in Silver Spring, Maryland. The 24-hour Oprah Winfrey Network began in January.

Raising Money

After his appearance on Winfrey’s show, Obama traveled to New York City for three fundraising events for the Democratic National Committee and his campaign.

About 60 donors attended a dinner at the Upper East Side apartment of former New Jersey Senator and Governor Jon Corzine, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs. Obama started his remarks by commenting on his decision to release the long-form version of his birth certificate.

“Part of what happened this morning was me trying to remind the press and trying to remind both parties that what we do in politics is not a reality show,” he said. “It’s serious.”

He also acknowledged that he hasn’t been able to change the tenor of the discourse in Washington as he had promised in 2008.

“Politics is as polarized as ever,” he said. “It is my intention to make sure that as hopeful as 2008 was I want 2012 to be an election in which we’re not just talking slogans.”

Values, Not Numbers

At a dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, attended by about 350 supporters including New York Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and basketball player Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, the president said the budget debate is “not about numbers, it is about values.”

On one side, he said, is a vision of a “shrunken America where those of us who are lucky do great and don’t have to give anything back.” The other vision is that “we can live within our means” and make “sure that the burden is shared.”

Among those attending the events were Orin Kramer of Boston Provident Partners LP, Dan Neidich of Dune Real Estate Partners LP, Charles Myers and Ralph Schlosstein of Evercore Partners Inc., Marc Spilker of Apollo Global Management LLP, Leon Wagner of Goldentree Asset Management LP, Bill Derrough of Moelis & Co., Rodge Cohen of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and Frank Brosens of Taconic Capital Advisors LP, according to a party official who was not authorized to discuss fundraising matters publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. In the 2008 campaign, Obama received more money from employees of the securities and investment sector than from those in any other single industry, according to the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, which studies the influence of money on the political process.

Standing Ovation

About 1,300 people were in the audience at the final “Gen44” event for younger supporters at the Town Hall, a concert venue in New York’s theater district, where Obama’s opening line -- “My name is Barack Obama; I was born in Hawaii; no one checked my ID on the way in” -- was greeted with a standing ovation.

Ticket prices for the three fundraisers ranged from $44 for the “Gen44” event to the legal maximum of $35,800. The events are expected to raise a total of $2 million to $3 million, the party official said.

Analysts say they expect the 2012 presidential election to cost $3 billion, about 50 percent more than the $2 billion the Federal Election Commission said was spent in 2008 by candidates, the political parties and outside groups. Obama raised a record $745 million in 2007 and 2008 for his presidential campaign and was the first major-party nominee to reject public financing for the general election.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Washington at kandersen7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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