Springfield (AP) - Sources inside the office of Illinois Lt. Governor Pat Quinn report that on Friday Quinn received a call from talk show host and entertainment icon Oprah Winfrey, indicating that should the lieutenant governor end up in a position where he can name President-elect Barack Obama's replacement to the Senate, she would like to be considered.
Reaction to the news was mostly positive from state and national Democrats. While some expressed reservations about her lack of legislative experience or any track record of campaigning for office, most were enthusiastic about Winfrey's brand name recognition, progressive politics and potential to be a fundraising titan.
Asked to comment, Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley said that Winfrey could accomplish almost anything. "Oprah Winfrey is a very experienced woman, she's worked very hard for the city. ... She's made an enormous difference in Chicago," Daley said yesterday after meeting on Capitol Hill with other U.S. mayors to seek stimulus spending from Congress. Daley said he wouldn't interfere in the process, however. "Oprah is very competent. The lieutenant governor would obviously have a lot of good candidates to pick from and I won't be presumptuous enough to try to insert myself into what's obviously a very difficult situation for him," the mayor said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also seemed enamored by the prospect of Sen. Winfrey. "She's 54 years old. I've spoken to her. She was among the president-elect's earliest endorsers... I think it would be a tremendous thing." Reid also indicated that he had contacted Quinn and voiced his support for her candidacy.
Others were more dismissive. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill), considered a longshot candidate for the seat, expressed skepticism over Winfrey's capabilities. "I don't know what Oprah Winfrey's qualifications are. Except that she has name recognition, but so does J.Lo," Davis continued on Milton Rosenberg's radio show on WGN. "I wouldn't make J.Lo the senator unless she proved she had great qualifications, but we haven't seen them yet."
Former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro also spoke out against Winfrey. "You can't send someone down there who doesn't know the issues," Ferraro told The New York Post. "If you send someone down there who doesn't know the legislative process, they'll get chewed up alive."
Prominent left-wing political websites such as the Huffington Post and DailyKos were too busy coming up with new reasons not to like Caroline Kennedy to comment.