Inside Move: Dems’ last-minute casting

Politicos try Clark for prexy role

Gen. Wesley Clark, the latest Democratic presidential aspirant, barnstormed through Hollywood last week, positioning himself as a rival to Howard Dean as the entertainment industry’s favorite candidate.

In a whirlwind of plate passing, Clark attended two events on the night of Oct. 1, one hosted by Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson, the other by Norman Lear. The next morning, former L.A. district attorney Ira Reiner, Gil Friesen and Richard Donner hosted a breakfast for the four-star general.

Why the sudden appeal?

Democrats in Hollywood are looking for a candidate they think can beat George W. Bush. And Clark’s combo of being former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, a critic of the war in Iraq and possessor of telegenic good looks make him look like a winner.

“What you’re dealing with in Hollywood are people who spend their entire life figuring out how to sell something,” says one producer who wrote Clark a check. “And these people are saying to themselves, that’s a good pitch.”

Dean supporters, however, are unswayed.

Early Dean ally Rob Reiner isn’t switching allegiances. On Oct. 1, he was at a Dean fundraiser at Union Station. Earlier that evening, David O. Russell hosted a reception at his home. On Sept. 30 Wil Mesdag, who works with Marvin Davis, hosted an event. On Sunday, a group of young Hollywood execs pitched in to the campaign at Les Doux Cafe.

Chad Griffin, a political consultant who works with Reiner, points to reports that Clark is not a registered Democrat and his admission that he once voted for Ronald Reagan, and questions his qualifications to criticize Bush.

“Being like Bush is the way we lose,” he says.

Hollywood, though, is a big town with deep pockets. And while Dean fans may resent the attention lavished on the new kid, there’s plenty of support to go around.

Even Lear admits: “Despite everything we read in the Eastern press, Los Angeles is like any other company town. The city’s leaders splinter on everything political.”

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