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Who Is Marianne Williamson? A look at the Candidate Many Never Heard of Before Last Week

Marianne Williamson wants people to push to their potential, and that’s what she’s been doing with her long shot presidential campaign.

In fact, the Democrat and spiritual consultant is the person who actually delivered an inspirational quote often attributed to late South African President Nelson Mandela.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,” she wrote in her book A Return to Love. “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Williamson, 66, is the self-help guru, author, and consultant to Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the White House. She is one of the lesser knowns who has been polling at a statistical zero, but who still polled high enough and received donations from enough people to qualify for the Democratic debates last week.

She supports universal health care, wants to address the core causes of chronic disease, opposes a border wall and has said we must bring down the “walls in our hearts.” She is a proponent of universal Pre-K, supports reparations and proposes a federally funded financial gift for newborns.

On her night two appearance in the Democratic debates, Williamson, with her theme that love would solve the country’s problems, went from political unknown to social media subject. Her closing statement accusing President Trump of “harnessing fear” and declaring “love will win” struck a chord—a derisive chord with some, and an admiring one with others. It even prompted comedian Kate McKinnon of Saturday Night Live to get started on a Williamson impression, she told host Seth Myers of TV’s Late Night.

After delivering a few lines of her impression depicting Williamson offering a plan to gather and burn all the sage in America, McKinnon transformed back into herself and told Myers, “What a star.”

Williamson was born in Houston to an immigration lawyer and homemaker. She studied theater at Pomona College in California, dropping out to become a cabaret singer. In 1989, she founded Project Angel Food, a program that delivers meals to homebound people battling AIDS and HIV. Williamson has authored several self-help books, including four New York Times bestsellers. In 2014, she campaigned for a Congressional seat in California but lost. Her personal website lists a mailing address in Frederic, Wisconsin.

Political experts who are closely watching the race do not agree this background makes a good candidate. Sophia Nelson, political commentator and former GOP counsel to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform told Fortune she does not believe Williamson has a chance of winning the nomination.

“She is an inspirational guru – love her books – but no,” said Nelson, who believes U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg are the best candidates among the Democrats.

“Williamson is too new age,” Nelson continued. “Trump voters would go crazy. The Dems would never nominate her, never. She is there to remind us of our consciousness as human beings. That is a good thing right now but it does not win elections.”

And while Williamson may have succeeded last week at elevating her name recognition, her poll numbers remain low.

According to the results of a post-debate poll of Democrats and Democratic leaning independents conducted by CNN and SSRS and released Monday, one percent of respondents said they would be most likely to support Williamson, while in the most recent poll, conducted June 28-30, Williamson garnered only an asterisk. In the same poll, one percent of respondents said that aside from the key candidate they are supporting, they would want to know more about Williamson.

A poll conducted before and after the first debate by Morning Consult for FiveThirtyEight showed that before the second debate, 13.4% of respondents had a favorable opinion of Williamson compared to 22% after the second debate. But the percentage of respondents who had an unfavorable opinion about her went up ,too, from 9.2% to 26.8%.

A Democratic strategist, who asked not to be identified, said even though Williamson did not talk about policy during the debates last week, she resonated with some—as evidenced by the new attention being devoted to her online.

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