Last fall, Obama entertained megastar Lady Gaga, who was seated in the front row of a Silicon Valley fundraiser in six-inch heels and a towering blond bouffant.
Obama’s popularity with Hollywood glitterati is again on display as his campaign mobilizes its vast fundraising apparatus to amass cash in a campaign that is shaping up to be the most expensive in U.S. history.
If Obama was the candidate of cool in 2008, when celebrities such as musician Will.I.Am produced viral campaign videos , he has even more aggressively employed star power to open pocketbooks, build buzz and, perhaps most notably, deploy celebrities to target specific constituencies.
Yet Obama’s glamorous elbow-rubbing carries significant risks as he struggles to convince voters that he is focused single-mindedly on their economic concerns. And it is triggering attacks from his Republican rivals, who contend that the president is more interested in hobnobbing with Hollywood to help his campaign than he is in helping ordinary Americans.
On Monday, the Republican National Committee released a Web video called “Meanwhile,” which flashes unemployment numbers for various groups — women, Latinos, African Americans, youth — under clips from an Obama campaign video from last Friday of Vogue Editor Anna Wintour talking about hanging out with “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker and first lady Michelle Obama. The bustling sounds of New York City streets give way to crickets chirping at the end of the RNC version, along with the tag line: “Obama’s focused on keeping his job. But what about yours?”
Although Obama faced similar accusations in 2008, the charges are potentially more dangerous this time given that he is a sitting president responsible for managing the economy, rather than being just one of 100 senators. Yet the Obama campaign sees Hollywood as a powerful and necessary ally, able to both raise large amounts of money and also speak directly to important subgroups of voters who identify with the famous. On Monday, as his celebrity ties became an issue, Obama hosted rock star Jon Bon Jovi on Air Force One on the way to fundraisers in New York.
The fundraiser with Wintour and Parker, for example, is part of an effort to appeal to women; the reelection team next week is offering supporters a chance to win a raffle (entry fee $3) to attend the New York City event. In a fundraising e-mail to supporters Monday, Michelle Obama called Parker “a loving mom, an incredibly hard worker, and a great role model” and added: “She’s one of those people you can’t help but admire.”
The RNC response video mocked the timing of the Obama video’s release. The video “highlights how out of touch President Obama and his campaign are after releasing a glitzy fundraising video featuring Vogue chief Anna Wintour the same day as a dismal jobs report,” RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said, referring to a Labor Department report that showed the economy added just 69,000 jobs in May.