COLUMBIA -- South Carolina will be the litmus test of whether star power can deliver votes.
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's campaign announced Monday that iconic talk show host Oprah Winfrey will campaign for friend and fellow Chicagoan Sen. Barack Obama at a Dec. 9 rally in Columbia.
South Carolinians and voters in other early primary states will get their chance to see both of the O's -- the media mogul and philanthropist and the Illinois presidential hopeful -- during the two-day campaign swing.
Time and location have yet to be announced, but tickets can be reserved online by going to my.barackobama.com/page/s/ scoprah.
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Thousands are expected to attend.
"We're looking for a space that hopefully will accommodate everyone who wants to attend," said Kevin Griffis, Obama's S.C. communications director.
But can Winfrey's branding magic turn voters out at the polls?
"We think (her visit) may reach people who do not necessarily pay attention to politics," Griffis said.
Winfrey's loyal following stretches beyond the more than 40 million U.S. viewers who tune in weekly. According to Harpo Inc., Winfrey's multimedia entertainment company:
• Her magazine, "O, the Oprah Magazine" has a circulation of more than 2 million.
• Her Web site, Oprah.com, where visitors can sign up to receive "Oprah Alerts" via e-mail, has more than 3 million unique visitors monthly.
• Winfrey launched "Oprah & Friends," a channel on XM Satellite Radio, in 2006 and a newsstand-only quarterly shelter magazine, "O at Home," in 2004.
At least four days per week, Judy Etheredge, owner of two Columbia hair salons, switches on Oprah's show as she trims and conditions clients' hair.
An avid Oprah fan for about 15 years, Etheredge said the endorsement further strengthens her desire to vote for Obama.
"I'm quite sure (Winfrey) pondered all of the candidates out there. I'm sure she endorsed him because she thinks he represents what she stands for," Etheredge said Monday as she prepared to watch the show. "Her endorsement, that just confirms it for me. I'm voting for Obama."
While celebrity endorsements are nothing new, Winfrey's fans are more like followers, many of whom feel like they have a personal connection with the star, say political scientists.
"They see her regularly (on TV) and are used to hearing and seeking her advice regularly," said Danielle Vinson, a political scientist at Winthrop University. "She's almost in the same category as some political or religious leaders."
Plus, she's got a proven track record of translating their devotion into action.
"She recommends books. She recommends movies. And they buy them," Vinson said, referring to Winfrey's reading club selections, some of which have become best-sellers.
Could it spell trouble for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, the only female candidate? Clinton leads Obama in South Carolina by double digits.
Zac Wright, S.C. spokesman for Clinton, avoided taking shots at Winfrey on Monday. Instead, he said he's pleased to see people passionate about the race and that "voters are going to decide which candidate has the right experience to lead our country, and we trust that will be Hillary Clinton."