What’s primary: bucks, backers

AS the Democratic primaries narrow to a two-person race, both Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama are looking for assistance from the Democrats’ electoral piggybank -- Hollywood. But this time around, they not only need money but also something that’s perhaps even more valuable -- celebrity talent.

In the wake of the recent caucus/primary madness, there’s even more pressure on stars not only to endorse but also to campaign in the states where they might make a difference. Although some celebrities worry that their presence could backfire, politicos say both Democratic front-runners could use a little glitter as they make the rounds at college campuses and shopping malls. (Imagine the throngs of potential voters that would show up to have their pictures taken with George Clooney or Brad Pitt.)

There’s an interesting split, for now, between Clinton’s and Obama’s lists of celebrity supporters. (Warning: The names are subject to change at a moment’s notice. Half the town was ready to run off with Obama last week after that Iowa cornfield joyride. Some sobered up a bit with Clinton’s win in New Hampshire. Now, like most of the nation’s pollsters, they’re just confused.)

When you look at the raw numbers, Obama and Clinton have been running neck and neck in Hollywood. As of the end of September, Obama, who returns to Los Angeles for a fundraiser Wednesday, raised $2.2 million from the entertainment industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Clinton, who’s expected to make a quick trip to L.A. today, meanwhile, has raised $2.1 million.


The latest head count, according to donor Internet search engine, shows that Obama has more of the bankable young stars, while Clinton has more of the old-line Democratic stalwarts.


Clooney, and, of course, Oprah Winfrey are Obama’s highest-profile supporters. (And no doubt, Clooney could mobilize his pack of “Ocean’s Eleven” pals to support the senator in a heartbeat.) At a crucial Iowa rally last week, Scarlett Johansson called on young voters to support Obama. (They did.) Meanwhile, on an overseas press junket, Will Smith announced that he was on the Illinois senator’s bandwagon. (“He’s the perfect choice for America’s future,” the actor told reporters at a Berlin media event for his latest blockbuster hit, “I Am Legend.” The foreign press asked Smith if he would run himself. He graciously declined.)

Some other A-list hotties, hipsters and legends in Obama’s camp include David Geffen, Jada Pinkett Smith, Eddie Murphy, Sidney Poitier, Cindy Crawford, Jennifer Aniston, Tyra Banks, Halle Berry, Zach Braff, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Hornsby, Lakers coach Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan, Cedric “The Entertainer” Kyles, Ellen Pompeo, Edward Norton, Leonard Nimoy, Jamie Foxx, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Natalie Maines, Rob Morrow and Forest Whitaker.


Clinton’s celebrity ranks include Magic Johnson and some of the entertainment industry’s most respected veterans: Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones, Clarence Avant and Rob Reiner. There are also a number of mega-money men such as Haim Saban, Steve Bing, Alan Horn, Ron Burkle and Jack Abernethy and a list of longtime Clinton loyalists (Barbra Streisand, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen).

Others making donations to Clinton include Joely Fisher, Ed Helms, Danny DeVito, Fran Drescher, Vivica Fox, Joanna Kerns and Marla Maples.

She’s also received tremendous support from designers -- Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Nicole Miller are all backers -- and musicians -- the Goo Goo Dolls performed at one of Clinton’s East Coast events recently, and Jon Bon Jovi has kicked in cash for her campaign.

As with all campaigns, there are plenty of unknowns. For example: Who will Martin Sheen support now that Bill Richardson is out of the race? And what about Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins? (They love former Sen. John Edwards, who needs a win in South Carolina to remain competitive.) And naturally, everyone is waiting to hear what Sean Penn will do if Rep. Dennis Kucinich jumps ship. (The Academy Award-winning actor recently announced his support for Kucinich at a San Francisco State University news conference.)

And don’t think for a minute that star power is lost on the Republicans. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee doesn’t go anywhere these days without Chuck Norris (Norris is the ultimate secret service, after all). The two are together so much that the media calls them “The Huck and Chuck Show.” This week, Sen. John McCain announced that he’s got a star in his corner: Wilford Brimley (the actor turned senior health guru) is a supporter.

At this point, the campaigns would welcome anyone with a profile on the Internet Movie Database. With the town virtually shutting down because of the writers strike, it’s heartening to know there will be work for the stars on the campaign trail.