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Oprah Backs Obama, Huckabee’s Star Rises on the Campaign ’08 Trail

Over the weekend, Oprah Winfrey threw her support behind Democratic candidate Barack Obama, while the GOP's Mike Huckabee has been enjoying a steady rise in the polls. Campaign reporters look at the latest developments in the presidential primary campaigns.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next, what's behind those Obama and Huckabee surges? NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins with this campaign update.

  • OPRAH WINFREY, Talk Show Host:

    I'm here to tell you, Iowa, he is the one. He is the one. Barack Obama!

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    For Barack Obama, the timing of his much-ballyhooed campaign swing with Oprah Winfrey could not have worked out better. The latest polls show Obama now in a statistical dead heat with Hillary Clinton in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. And the Oprah-Obama blitz attracted large crowds in all three states this weekend.

    Obama hopes Winfrey's endorsement will attract more women to his candidacy.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: Oprah Winfrey, the more we've known her, the more spectacular you realize her character and her soul is. This is a wonderful person. We love her. I'm grateful for her being here.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    In contrast, Hillary Clinton's weekend was more subdued, as she campaigned in Iowa with daughter Chelsea and with her 88-year-old mother. Clinton ignored all questions about Winfrey's potential impact on the primary race.

    SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: I'm having a good time. I just am not sure I'm going to eat all of this in front of all of you, and that's the only thing I'm concerned about right now.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Clinton did send her own star-powered supporter, Bill Clinton, to campaign in South Carolina on Saturday, ahead of Winfrey's visit.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    But it was another former Arkansas governor who attracted attention this weekend. One-time long-shot candidate Mike Huckabee now is the surprise frontrunner among the Republican candidates.

    But inevitably, the leader of the pack becomes the most scrutinized, and Huckabee now is being stalked by his record: He advocated for the release of a convicted rapist who, after release, raped and murdered. And then there's the comment he made 15 years ago, that AIDS patients should be isolated.

    Campaigning in South Carolina on Saturday, Huckabee argued his views on that reflected what was known about AIDS at the time.

    FORMER GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE (R), Arkansas: If I were making those same comments today, I might make them a little differently. But, obviously, I have to stand by what I said. Medical protocol typically says that, if you have a disease for which there is no cure and you are uncertain about the transmission of it, that the first thing you do is you quarantine or isolate carriers.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    On Sunday, six of the other Republican candidates joined Huckabee for a Univision-sponsored debate focused mainly on immigration issues. And for the most part, they passed on the opportunity to try to knock him off his pack-leading pedestal.