DES MOINES - Oprah Winfrey, stumping for Barack Obama on Saturday, addressed a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd in the largest gathering of Iowans in the campaign this year.
She said worry about the direction of the country and a personal belief in the Illinois senator's ability to lead it pushed her to make her first endorsement in a presidential campaign.
The talk show queen did not mention Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton by name, but Winfrey was not subtle about her feelings for Clinton's argument that Obama doesn't have the experience to be president when she voted to authorize the war in Iraq.
"The amount of time you spend in Washington means nothing unless you are accountable for the judgment you made," Winfrey said. She said from the beginning Obama "stood with clarity and conviction against this war in Iraq."
The campaign distributed 23,000 tickets for the Des Moines event and more than 10,000 for another later in Cedar Rapids. Thousands of people, many who don't normally participate in politics, came into Obama's Iowa offices, volunteered and attended caucus trainings to score tickets.
The campaign said 18,500 people showed up in Des Moines.
Clinton countered Oprahmania by debuting two other women on the campaign trail -- her mother, Dorothy Rodham, and daughter, Chelsea. Neither had appeared publicly yet with the senator in her presidential bid.
The reluctant Chelsea Clinton's public emergence normally would have been big news, but it was a last-minute announcement that was overshadowed by the Oprah hype.
The Democratic race in Iowa is tight, with Obama, Clinton and John Edwards in a dead heat.
Obama spoke after Winfrey and acknowledged that he was under no illusions that the crowd was there to hear him.
"You want Oprah as vice president?" he asked the crowd that responded with enthusiastic cheers. "That would be a demotion, you understand that?"