Furthermore, Axelrod added, Romney has sought fundraising help other famous names, including musicians Kid Rock and Ted Nugent.
“I don’t think they have a whole lot of standing on this issue,” Axelrod said.
Still, Romney’s drawing power among Hollywood’s elite pales in comparison to Obama’s. At a Beverly Hills fundraiser last week, Romney’s biggest-name guests were former “Happy Days” star Scott Baio and actor Jon Voight, who is also Angelina Jolie’s father.
Obama has drawn support from Hollywood’s biggest names and biggest bundlers, including moviemaking titans Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg. The fundraiser last week at Clooney’s house — for which the campaign also held a raffle for ordinary supporters — included actors Tobey Maguire, Jack Black and Salma Hayek and singer Barbra Streisand. The campaign walked away with a whopping $15 million, its largest single-event total, including the raffle and $40,000-per-plate tickets for 150 guests.
In many cases, the Obama campaign has used celebrities to target specific constituencies. Eva Longoria, a campaign bundler who is a constant presence at Obama events, is popular among Hispanic women. Last month, Obama was introduced at a New York event by openly gay singer Ricky Martin, just days after the president expressed support for same-sex marriage.
Martin told the crowd that he admires “the courage he showed last week in affirming his belief in marriage equality. That is the kind of courage we expect from our president and that is why we support him.”
The attacks on Obama’s fascination with celebrities are not new. In 2008, Republican rival John McCain endorsed a video called “Celebrity” that mocked Obama’s popularity and included images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
“He’s the biggest celebrity in the world. But is he ready to lead?” the ad intoned.
That ad did little to damp Obama’s appeal, especially among young voters. John Weaver, a Republican strategist who had called the McCain video “childish,” said Monday that the RNC attack also would have little effect on voters.
“They’re trying to influence opinion leaders and journalists,” Weaver said. “But no voter cares about this issue, and it will not shape the opinion of any voters. What matters is whether the employment situation will improve.”
Yet for the Obama campaign, the need to recapture the enthusiasm of 2008 has grown more urgent with the economy still struggling. Heather Smith, president of the youth-oriented Rock the Vote, said there are 25 million unregistered voters under 30 years old, a far higher number than at the same time four years ago.
“All our polling shows an increased level of frustration with the pace of change, with the control of money and corporate interests in our political process,” she said, citing the Occupy Wall Street and tea party movements as offshoots of that frustration.
“The question for the president will be not whether he uses celebrity spokespeople, but how he uses them and what kind of message they convey,” Smith added. “People are worse off than they were four years ago. So it’s not just a straight to camera ‘go vote’ campaign. They need to leverage celebrities to actually talk about the issues.”
Obama’s celebrity surrogates have begun to help in that regard, a la Martin’s comments on same-sex marriage. But in many cases, the praise has been more effusive the other direction.
“We raised a lot of money because everybody loves George,” Obama told supporters at the Clooney event.
“They like me,” the president said. “They love him.”
Staff writers Amy Gardner and Nia-Malika Henderson contributed to this report.