Actor Clint Eastwood came under fire from some Republicans in February for his appearance in a Chrysler ad that some said had echoes of President Obama’s campaign message.
But six months after the “Halftime in America” Super Bowl ad, Eastwood on Friday night was spotted at a fundraiser for Obama’s White House rival, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, in Sun Valley, Idaho.
“I haven’t endorsed Governor Romney,” Eastwood, who entered the event alone, joked to reporters when asked which candidate he plans to support in the 2012 White House race.
“I think the country needs a boost somewhere,” he added.
Moments later, Romney called on Eastwood to take the stage outside the Sun Valley Resort lodge. Among the other notables present were Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) and Olympic skater Scott Hamilton. Tickets for the 325-person fundraiser ranged from $1,000 to $25,000.
“There is a guy here from the world of acting, who has pursed his dreams in a very unusual way,” Romney, who appeared tired after a busy day on the trail, told the crowd after delivering his stump speech. “He stood up to the industry and did things his own way.”
The crowd applauded and some pointed to Eastwood, who listened to Romney’s speech from the front of the audience, his arms behind his back.
“Can I get Clint Eastwood to come up here and say hi to everybody?” Romney asked.
Eastwood, who was clad in a green coat, khakis and sneakers, walked up to the stage and said a few inaudible words to Romney, at which the presumptive GOP nominee laughed.
“This is very nice to be here today, tonight, today,” Eastwood said. “Let’s clear the smoke.”
He told the crowd that in the early 2000s, he was making the film ‘Mystic River’ in Romney’s home state of Massachusetts.
“At that time, Gov. Romney was running for governor,” Eastwood said. “I said, ‘God, this guy is too handsome to be governor, but he does look like he could be president.’ As the years have gone by, I’m beginning to think even more so that. He’s going to restore a decent tax system that we need badly so that there is a fairness and people are not pitted against one another of whose paying taxes and who isn’t.”
In a reference to recent legislation sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would do away with the tax on Olympic medals, Eastwood added: “Also we don’t want anybody taking away the Olympic medals, tax-wise, from the Olympic athletes. The government is talking about getting a couple of nickles.”
He told the crowd that he planned for vote for Romney, whose leadership is “now more important than ever.”
“We’ve got to just spread the word and get the whole country behind this because it’s going to be an exciting election,” Eastwood said.
After Eastwood spoke, Romney took back the microphone and told the crowd: “He just made my day. What a guy.”
At the time of the Chrysler ad’s airing, some prominent Republicans had cried foul. Karl Rove told Fox News that he was offended by the two-minute TV spot and called it a product of the White House “in essence using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising.”
Eastwood – a lifelong Republican who backed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 but has since described himself as libertarian-leaning – responded to the criticism in a statement to Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly.
“I am certainly not politically affiliated with Mr. Obama,” Eastwood had said in the statement. “It was meant to be a message about job growth and the spirit of America. I think all politicians will agree with it. I thought the spirit was okay.”
Asked on Friday night whether his appearance at the Romney fundraiser was a second “Halftime in America” act, Eastwood joked that the reporter should be added to the Romney campaign committee.
The Romney fundraiser is one of several the presumptive GOP nominee has held during a three-day campaign swing out west. On Saturday, he heads to Evansville, Indiana, where he will hold court with donors at an afternoon event before returning to New Hampshire for the remainder of the weekend.