Star power draws fo­cus to can­di­dates on the stump

Big-name celebri­ties give Obama a boost

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY JIM KUHNHENN

AT­LANTA | No pres­i­den­tial can­di­date worth his chauf­feured SUV has reached his per­sonal zenith with­out this: celebri­ties to vouch for them. They are the glam and glit­ter of po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns, sure to turn even jaded po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives into fawn­ing celeb watch­ers.

No­body com­mands the nexus of star­dom and pol­i­tics more than Pres­i­dent Obama. Mocked by op­po­nents dur­ing his 2008 cam­paign for be­ing a celebrity him­self, he draws from a broad as­sort­ment of per­son­al­i­ties — Hol­ly­wood lib­er­als, NBA stars and more.

Fri­day of­fered a case in point. Mr. Obama raised money in film pro­ducer Tyler Perry’s sprawl­ing south­west At­lanta stu­dio at a gala event fea­tur­ing a per­for­mance by pop star Cee Lo Green. Then he spoke to those in a more elite group, in­clud­ing Oprah Win­frey, at Mr. Perry’s 30,000-square-foot French pro­vin­cial man­sion along the Chat­ta­hoochee River.

His just-re­leased cam­paign biopic is nar­rated by ac­tor Tom Hanks. On Thurs­day, a White House visit by Obama backer and Os­car win­ner Ge­orge Clooney to meet with the pres­i­dent over con­di­tions in Su­dan drew a gag­gle of press cov­er­age.

Mr. Obama, though, has no mo­nop­oly on big names.

Re­pub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney has cam­paigned with Jeff Fox­wor­thy, the ge­nial co­me­dian with a reper­toire of red­neck jokes, con­vinced rocker-rapper Kid Rock to per­form at a cam­paign rally and won sup­port­ive words from Kiss lead singer Gene Sim­mons.

Newt Gin­grich has ac­tion film star Chuck Nor­ris in his corner. Rick San­to­rum has been en­dorsed by Me­gadeth front­man Dave Mus­taine, and Jim Bob and Michelle Dug­gar, stars of TLC’S “19 Kids and Count­ing,” have made cam­paign ap­pear­ances with him. Ron Paul has an eclec­tic list of shout-outs from the likes of Kelly Clark­son, Snoop Dogg, Oliver Stone, Juli­ette Lewis, Vince Vaughn, Joe Ro­gan and Jesse Ven­tura.

Such prox­im­ity to star­dom can reap big ben­e­fits for a politi­cian. Chris Le­hane, a Demo­cratic con­sul­tant who’s had his brush with the stars work­ing for Al Gore and Bill Clin­ton, says per­son­al­i­ties help al­ter the typ­i­cal, an­ti­sep­tic look of a po­lit­i­cal event.

“These celebri­ties, one of the rea­sons they are celebri­ties, is they have a unique abil­ity to con­nect with peo­ple,” he said. “You’re us­ing them as a bridge to con­nect with their fans and their au­di­ences.”

Or as Mr. Obama neatly summed it up, when he thanked Ms. Win­frey on Fri­day at Mr. Perry’s home: “Just like books and skin cream, when Oprah de­cides she likes you, then other peo­ple like you, too.”

For Mr. Obama, whose cam­paign so far has fo­cused pri­mar­ily on fundrais­ing, celebri­ties such as Mr. Clooney, Will Smith, Magic John­son and An­to­nio Ban­deras help at­tract the big-dol­lar givers. First lady Michelle Obama was fundrais­ing Mon­day in New York with ac­tor Robert De Niro at a Tribeca Ital­ian res­tau­rant.

On Fri­day, Mr. Obama was on a fu­ri­ous fundrais­ing pace, hit­ting five events in two cities in one day and rais­ing at least $4.8 mil­lion.

Mr. Obama has par­tic­i­pated in 108 fundrais­ers since April when he filed for re-elec­tion with the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion.

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