Oprah Winfrey expected to be campaigning in Iowa by now — but not for herself

Raechal Shewfelt
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Oprah Winfrey planned to be working hard on the 2020 presidential election by this time. And, no, it’s not because she ever planned to be a candidate.

The talk show host-turned-media mogul said Wednesday at Save the Children’s gala, called “Centennial Celebration: Once in a Lifetime,” at the swanky Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, that she wanted to support Disney CEO Robert Iger, had he entered the race.

Oprah Winfrey speaks at Save the Children's Centennial Celebration: Once in a Lifetime at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Oct. 2 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Save the Children)

“This is not really where I intended to be tonight. I was hoping that by this time, early fall, I would be knocking on doors in Des Moines, wearing an Iger 2020 T-shirt,” Winfrey said. “Because I really do believe that Bob Iger’s guidance and decency is exactly what the country needs right now. But since my canvassing Iowa strategy doesn’t seem to be in the cards, I’m happy to be here with all of you to honor a man who has devoted himself to actually lifting the spirits of children all over the world.”

Winfrey, of course, has dismissed talk that she would ever run for the highest office in the land. On CBS This Morning, just last week, she said, “I’m so happy I’m not in any of it.”

But she did say yes to presenting Iger, whom she’s raved about before, with the night’s big award for Disney’s work with the organization under his leadership. That’s despite the fact that she didn’t know about Save the Children’s work when she was invited.

Jennifer Garner, Robert Iger and Oprah Winfrey attend Save the Children's Centennial Celebration: Once in a Lifetime at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Oct. 2 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Save The Children)

“The reason I said yes,” Winfrey explained, “is because there is not a human being on the planet Earth that I hold in higher regard than Robert Iger.”

When Iger accepted the award, he, too, said voters wouldn’t see his name on the ballot, alongside the many others.

“Oprah, I am reminded of something that Ronald Reagan said to Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential debate, ‘There you go again.’ Please, I am not about to become the 25th or the 30th person seeking the presidency in 2020. I certainly hope that whoever runs — and whoever wins — makes the safety and well-being of children their number one priority.”

The latest episode of Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday on her OWN network featured a conversation between her and the Disney leader, in which Iger said he’d spoken with former people who know about running for president and being in the White House more than once.

“I had this conversation with President [Barack] Obama and his family several times,” Iger told Winfrey. “His kids and his wife clearly believed that I had the better job.”

At the gala, Jennifer Garner, the night’s host and a Save the Children board member, raved about Iger as well.

“Mr. Iger is everything you could want in a leader,” Garner told Variety on the red carpet. “I dare to say he is presidential. He’s dignified, he’s a risk-taker, he is down to earth, he is wise and he has integrity. I would hand him any job I possibly could.”

In addition to Iger’s award, the night included several performances by James Taylor and a tribute to the late Cokie Roberts, who was a longtime member of Save the Children’s Board of Trustees.

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