There’s at least one A-lister wearing her pick for the White House on her stylish sleeve. That would be actress Rosario Dawson, who also happens to be dating presidential candidate Cory Booker (D-N.J.). But the rest of the famous folk we’ve gotten so used to seeing on the trail? They’re still hiding in the bushes.
With nearly two dozen candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for president, the field is more crowded than the Oscars red carpet. Politically outspoken celebrities such as Katy Perry, Lena Dunham, Cher and, the godmother of them all, Oprah, have been cautiously guarding their stamps of approval.
“Right now, I’m studying the field,” Oprah told the Hollywood Reporter in April. But the media mogul who helped get Barack Obama to the White House did shout out South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, calling him “Buttabeep, Buttaboop.” She also sat down with former congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas. But no one has been anointed just yet.
Valerie O’Regan, a political science professor at California State University at Fullerton who studies the influence of celebrities on politics, says that could change after Labor Day when the campaign is in full swing. “That’s when we’ll start to see some of the celebrities surfacing,” she said.
But do celeb endorsements even matter? O’Regan says that at the very least, they can do no harm and can boost a candidate’s exposure — especially important in a crowded field like the 2020 one — and even voter turnout. “If people don’t like the celeb or don’t agree with them, that will not affect the voters’ decision,” she said. “If a voter likes the candidate and the celebrity, it will increase their likelihood of coming out and voting.”
When author and self-help guru Marianne Williamson ran for Congress in 2014, a respectable bench of A-listers backed the unconventional candidate, including Nicole Richie, Eva Longoria and even Kim Kardashian (who two years later supported Hillary Clinton for president while her husband, rapper Kanye West, backed Donald Trump). But when it comes to 2020, Williamson’s friends in high places have remained mum.
Bernie Sanders at least still has the loud support of actress Susan Sarandon, who has gone to the mat (most notably against fellow actress Debra Messing) for the independent senator representing Vermont. Sarandon consistently tweets pro-Bernie media to her more than 600,000 followers. For her part, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a political star and alum of Sanders’s 2016 campaign, is still on the fence.
While Hollywood bigwigs have held fundraisers for a handful of candidates, including former vice president Joe Biden, Buttigieg, and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), only a few other top celebs have fully committed: “Dirty John” actress Connie Britton is a hard yes for her former college roomie, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), for example — Britton even joined her on the campaign trail — and rapper Cardi B is (probably!) on Team Bernie.
O’Regan notes that while the Oprahs and George Clooneys of the world remain the holy grail of endorsements, candidates probably won’t be sleeping on newly influential reality-TV stars and social media influencers — or headline-grabbers, such as the white-hot (and politically unafraid) members of the U.S. women’s soccer team.
While La La Land is kicking the tires of the 2020 hopefuls, looking for the horse to back, the candidates themselves are mindful that they have to win over famous names just like they do any voter. O’Rourke talked about the coveted Beyoncé Endorsement (he had the star’s support in his failed Senate run) in an interview last month with the Root: “I understand that I would have to earn her support over the course of this campaign, just as I will have to earn the support of any American who’s going to help to decide this election,” he said.