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Washington & Wilshire: How Hollywood is impacting the 2012 election

Actor George Clooney leaves after he spoke to the media March 15, 2012 at the White House in Washington, DC. Clooney had meeting with President Barack Obama to discuss the current situations in Darfur, Sudan.
Actor George Clooney leaves after he spoke to the media March 15, 2012 at the White House in Washington, DC. Clooney had meeting with President Barack Obama to discuss the current situations in Darfur, Sudan.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

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It’s a tradition spanning two centuries: Angeleno showbiz celebrities throwing their fame behind a favorite political cause.

The election of 2012 is no different, and some of the biggest names in Hollywood are leading the charge to help raise funds for President Obama’s reelection campaign. Variety's Ted Johnson said Democrats have been aggressive involving stars in politics. Celebrities such as George Clooney and Sarah Jessica Parker have hosted events and fundraised.

"That's been a bit of a risk, because it plays into the notion that Democrats are beholden to Hollywood," Johnson added. "Nevertheless, I think they have said it's a risk worth taking if the payoff is a very lucrative amount of money."

The moneyed Hollywood elites get flak for being too liberal from residents of more conservative parts of America, but the Republicans also have their vocal cadre of Hollywood supporters. And there was Clint Eastwood’s now-infamous ‘chair speech’ at the GOP Convention:

Eastwood's accusation that Hollywood's left would "hot-dog around" and flaunt its political leanings led to cheers and applause in Florida. Johnson said Democratic stars are more vocal, but instances akin to Eastwood's unexpected speech would never occur at the DNC.

"There is probably a little more of a savviness to liberal Hollywood, democratic Hollywood, just because there is much more of what I would call an infrastructure," he explained. "You have a community that has a long tradition of supporting democrats, and by that same token you probably have a lot more ... connection to advisors who can talk to a celebrity and explain to them exactly how you go out and how you stay on message, how you don't have something like what happened to Clint Eastwood out there."

Johnson said actress Eva Longoria, national co-chair for Obama's campaign, is a case-in-point. She's slated to take the stage on Wednesday or Thursday in Charlotte.

"She has been trained by the Obama team to really stay on message. She's very much viewed by them as a leader of Hispanic public figures and that she can speak very well to that audience as well as to women. I think I can be pretty safe to assume that she will not be in the last hour of primetime Thursday night," he continued.

According to Johnson, "Gay Hollywood" has also made a strong showing at the DNC after Obama publically announced his support for same-sex marriage.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm from gay Hollywood. I just ran into a bunch of donors and fundraisers for them, and we walked to the LGBT caucus and the line is out the door. You can't even get into the room; the fire marshal has shut it down," he described.

But a number of Hollywood Democrats have revealed their frustration with the Obama administration, and Johnson expects celebrity turn-out to be smaller this year, along with the number of events, concerts and receptions. Johnson added that this isn't unprecedented.

"President Clinton actually went on to a pretty easy reelection against Bob Dole that year, and he did it without Hollywood. In fact, I'll never forget, the entertainment community was really upset he signed welfare reform," he recalled. "There was a contingent that was really kind of unhappy that Clinton turned out not be as left as they expected."


Who’s backing who? Who’s hosting what dinner? Do celebrity endorsements help or hurt candidates with mainstream voters, who might scorn the values of Hollywood’s more politically active players?


Ted Johnson, deputy editor for Variety, Wilshire & Washington blog