Trump Once Dreamed of a Trump-Oprah Ticket
Two decades ago, Donald Trump said that if he ran for president, fellow television star Oprah would be his top choice for a running mate.
At a rally in Tampa on Saturday, Donald Trump, the de facto Republican nominee, asked his audience to participate in his selection of a running mate.
“Everybody wants to know who I’m going to choose for vice president,” he said.
He pointed at the crowd.
“Who do you like?”
The crowd began shouting names, and Trump seemed to mull some of them over from the stage.
“He says Newt!” he said. “They say Sessions! He says Condi Rice! Who else? Who do you like? I’ve never done this before. This is fun! We have a lot of good people. You’ll be happy.”
It was almost like a giveaway.
And you get to pick the vice president!
And you get to pick the vice president!
For a traditional candidate, involving laymen in this process—even just for show—would be unthinkable. But for Trump, the consummate showman, it makes perfect sense. In the past, Trump has said he would want a vice president with political and government experience. When Ben Carson was in charge of Trump’s vice president selection process, he suggested the shortlist included Sarah Palin. But the person Trump has most often talked about as a potential running mate is not her, or Newt Gingrich, or Jeff Sessions, or Condoleezza Rice, or any other politician or public servant elected to or installed in office.
It’s Oprah Winfrey.
At the end of the day, Trump is impressed by celebrity and its power. In his own campaign, he conflates fame with leadership capabilities. In his worldview, if you’re able to make it in America as a star—talk show or reality show—you should be able to make it as the leader of the free world. To Trump, there is no difference.
Everybody gets to pick the vice president!
In 1999, Trump was publicly toying with running for president as a member of the Reform Party, the political party founded by Ross Perot five years earlier. In an interview on Larry King Live, he announced he would be forming an exploratory committee. “Do you have a vice presidential candidate in mind?” King asked.
“Well, I really haven’t gotten there quite yet—I guess Oprah,” Trump said, smirking. “I love Oprah. Oprah would always be my first choice.”
“Oprah?” King asked.
“Oprah,” Trump said. “Your competitor. You know what? She really is a great woman, though, she is a terrific woman. She is somebody that’s very special.”
“Would she be someone—kidding aside,” King said, “that you might think about?”
Trump turned serious. “If she’d do it, she’d be fantastic,” he said. “She’s popular, she’s brilliant, she’s a wonderful woman. I mean, if she’d ever do it, I don’t know that she’d ever do it.”
“What a ticket that would be,” King said.
“That would be a pretty good ticket,” Trump said.
Trump had appeared on Winfrey’s talk show in the late 80s with his first wife, Ivana, to discuss both their marriage and his future in politics. “I’d make our allies pay their fair share,” he told her then. He complained about the debt, trade policy and the Japanese—common refrains in his current campaign. Even so, when Winfrey asked if he would ever run for president, Trump said, “probably not, but I do get tired of seeing the country ripped off. I just don’t think I really have the inclination to do it…If it got so bad, I would never want to rule it out totally.”
By June 16, 2015—the day Trump formally announced his candidacy—circumstances had changed significantly. But Trump’s ideas about who would make the ideal vice president had not.
In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, Trump said, “I like Oprah—what can I tell you? She’s great, she’s talented, she’s a good person. In fact, I was on her show last week…I like Oprah, is that supposed to be a bad thing? I think Oprah would be great. I think we’d win easily, actually.”
A spokesperson for Winfrey did not reply when asked if she would consider joining Trump’s campaign.