Billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey, in the first of several campaign stops to boost Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Thursday, knocked down rumors of a potential run for office and told the cheering crowd they are poised "on the precipice of a historic election."
"I want to tell you...no one paid for me to come here. No one asked me to come here," Winfrey said at a rally in Marietta, adding that she is both an independent woman, and a registered political independent. "I came for myself and I approve this message."
Winfrey, who took the stage to booming applause, said she wanted to come to Georgia to support Abrams because she saw how Abrams is "handling herself" amid an onslaught of "haters."
"You keep it coming on," Winfrey said, adding that Abrams keeps "standing strong for the values that matter to me and the values that matter to Georgians all over this state."
Winfrey added that "if you're woke just a little bit, you know everyone is not treated equally." She praised Abrams as someone who will "serve the underserved" if elected as Georgia’s first female African-American governor.
Winfrey joined Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia state House, at a second rally in Decatur later in the day. She also went door to door as part of her visit, just days before one of the nation's tightest elections reaches the finish line.
During the first campaign event, Winfrey addressed the rumors that she was interested in a possible 2020 presidential bid, saying she was there solely to boost Abrams and wasn't interested in a run for office herself.
"I'm not trying to test any waters," Winfrey said.
Soon after Winfrey wrapped up speaking to the crowd, Abrams took the stage for a roundtable discussion. As the two were sitting down, the crowd started chanting: "You get a vote! And you get a vote! And you get a vote!"
The chant was a play on an iconic moment from her daytime TV show, where she told her audience: "You get a car! You get a car!"
While Winfrey insisted the trip was not one where she intended to highlight any of her own political abilities, her speech was somewhat of a combination of a campaign speech and a trip to church. Though she did check her notes a couple of times, most of Winfrey's speech appeared off-the-cuff.
In announcing Winfrey's appearance on Wednesday, Abrams said the media mogul "has inspired so many of us though the years with her unparalleled ability to form real connections and strengthen the bonds of family and community."
"I am honored to have Oprah join me for uplifting and honest conversations with voters about the clear choice before us in this election and the boundless potential of Georgians," Abrams told NBC News in a statement.
Abrams is going toe-to-toe with Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp in one of the nation's most hotly contested races. Last week, an NBC News/Marist poll found that the race is essentially tied, with likely voters favoring Kemp by a 49 percent to 47 percent spread, a number within the poll's margin of error. Among registered voters, the two candidates are tied at 47 percent.
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The battle between Abrams and Kemp has featured a number of controversies. The latest one bubbled to the surface on Wednesday after the secretary of state backed out of the final scheduled gubernatorial debate so that he could campaign alongside President Donald Trump on Sunday, who is paying Georgia a visit.
After backing out of the WSB-TV debate, Kemp offered to debate at a new time — 7:30 p.m. on Monday, just hours before Election Day, but Abrams did not agree to the new terms. That led to Kemp's campaign trying to shift blame to Abrams, accusing her of "ducking Georgia voters."
The race's most prominent back-and-forth involves Kemp's current role as the state's top election official. That controversy centers on Kemp purging tens of thousands of voters, most of whom are black, from voter rolls ahead of next week's election. Kemp has denied that he is attempting to suppress the black vote, saying that he is simply following the law.
Abrams has accused Kemp of undermining confidence in democracy and creating "an atmosphere of fear" for voters through his actions as secretary of state — allegations that Kemp has called "a farce."
Meanwhile, former President Jimmy Carter, a Georgian, recently called for Kemp to resign from his position.
As Winfrey campaigns with Abrams, Kemp is scheduled to host a trio of rallies on Thursday with Vice President Mike Pence before Trump rallies for him on Sunday.
During his first stop with Kemp on Thursday, Pence went after Winfrey, calling her another Hollywood liberal who is out of touch with Georgia values.
"I'm kind of a big deal too," Pence joked to loud applause during his speech in Dalton.
For Abrams, Winfrey's visit will be followed with an appearance by former President Barack Obama on Friday.
Oprah endorsed and campaigned for Obama during his 2008 presidential bid.
ON THE TRAIL IN OTHER STATES
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, running for re-election in a tight race with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, said he was focused on his campaign's "direct message to the voters" when asked about the racially divisive ad President Donald Trump posted to Twitter on Thursday that ties an undocumented immigrant convicted of killing police officers to Democrats.
"I think the focus for us here in Wisconsin is on our message our direct message to the voters, which is we've come a long way together, we've turned this state around," Walker told NBC News' Kasie Hunt.
Most polls show Evers with a lead, although a recent Marquette University survey showed the race in a dead heat.
Of his tough race, Walker said, "whether it was Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama or now Donald Trump, any time a president is in office in his first term, that first midterm is a tough term anybody running for the house, the senate, or governors in competitive states."
GOP Senate candidate Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, published a pro-media essay on Thursday to draw a contrast between himself and Trump's harsh anti-press rhetoric.
Just this week, after pipe bombs were sent to CNN, Trump again tweeted that "fake news" was "the true Enemy of the People." The man who allegedly mailed the pipe bomb packages to CNN and prominent Democrats was a Trump fan.
In his essay, Romney wrote that though he sometimes becomes "irritated by stories I know are wrong, especially when they are about me," he "cannot conceive of thinking or saying that the media or any responsible news organization is an enemy."
"The media is essential to our Republic, to our freedom, to the cause of freedom abroad, and to our national security," he continued. "It is very much our friend."
Romney was highly critical of the president during Trump's 2016 campaign for the White House, but was later considered as a possible secretary of state. Since launching his Senate campaign, Romney has not been anywhere near as critical of Trump as he was during the 2016 campaign, where the two routinely traded blows.
Amid a week where Trump has injected immigration issues — such as birthright citizenship — into the closing days of the midterm campaigns, Rep. Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic candidate for Senate, told reporters that the president will not "scare us about ourselves" ahead of Election Day.
"When you look at immigrants from Central America, this is who the president is talking about," O'Rourke said. "He has called Mexican immigrants rapists. He has called those seeking asylum from Central America animals and infestation. Now, he is questioning the constitutional right to citizenship for those who are coming from these countries now. Let’s call it out for what it is."
O'Rourke is battling Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in one of the nation's most closely-watched races.