Clinton still leads in national polls

Hillary Clinton has racked up show business endorsements. She holds wide leads in polls nationally and in California. Some would say she’s the inevitable Democratic nominee.

But Barack Obama still showed Hollywood strength in the third quarter, edging out Clinton in fund-raising in the entertainment industry during the period.

According to the latest figures from the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama raised $580,000 from July 1-Sept. 30 from sources in the film, TV and music industries. Clinton raised $530,589, followed by John Edwards with $96,052.

So far this year, Clinton continues to outpace Obama and all of the other candidates in money raised from the entertainment industry, collecting $2,141,609. But Obama is close behind with $2,073,325.

The figures themselves may look surprisingly low. That’s because it’s not a perfect science in the way that the Center for Responsive Politics classifies those in the industry. An entertainment attorney, for instance, would be lumped in with lawyers, not show business.

Obama and Clinton have been trying to raise funds from Hollywood sources at a breakneck pace, not just to fill the coffers but for the cachet and publicity it brings to a campaign. In the third quarter, industry figures including Sumner Redstone and personalities such as Jon Bon Jovi and Renee Zellweger gave to Clinton, while Tyler Perry and Sidney Poitier gave to Obama. Edwards saw support from James Denton and Sean Penn, among others.

Obama’s campaign was boosted by the massive fund-raiser that Oprah Winfrey threw for him at her Montecito estate in September.

Donors came from all over the country to the event, which raised more than $3 million, but there was a significant contingent of attendees from the entertainment biz. A week later, Magic Johnson threw a fund-raiser for Clinton at his Los Angeles home, although that event was designed to be a more intimate affair, drawing several hundred donors as opposed to the 1,500 who attended the Winfrey event.

But even if Obama’s figures provide some good news, the campaign is finding itself battling the perception that Clinton is unstoppable. Some donors are getting antsy over his poll numbers, and there has been some consternation among supporters in Hollywood that the enthusiasm that greeted his entry into the race last winter has waned.

Moreover, there have been worries that fund-raising will slow if Clinton’s nomination comes to appear all but assured. His campaign has pointed to past examples, such as John Kerry, whose presidential bid had sputtered at this point in 2003. Obama himself addressed such talk during an appearance on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on Wednesday, telling the host, “Hillary is not the first politician in Washington to declare ‘Mission Accomplished’ a little too soon.”

Indeed, Obama has a trio of fund-raisers hosted by high-profile Hollywood figures this weekend, which he plans to attend along with a townhall-style forum in East L.A. He has a morning reception at the Malibu home of Ron and Kelly Meyer, a luncheon at the Beverly Park home of Irena and Mike Medavoy and an evening event at the home of Jon and Ellen Vein.

Political consultant Andy Spahn, who has been helping to raise money for both Obama and Clinton, said that it is too early to write off a candidate’s prospects. Clinton has run what he calls a “great campaign,” but Obama “will have enough money to be competitive.”

“The fund-raising cycle is all about raising enough money to be competitive,” he said. “Dollars aren’t votes.”

Meanwhile, Edwards is scheduled to attend a fund-raiser at the Beverly Hills home of Brett Ratner on Friday night. Ratner previously opened his home for a coin-generating event for Edwards in June.

And Clinton will attend a fund-raiser on Sunday at the home of Rob and Michele Reiner. Reiner gave Clinton his endorsement several weeks ago, and his event also will double as a celebration of her 60th birthday.

As has been the case throughout the year, Democratic contenders have far outpaced Republicans in collecting Hollywood money, even with the entrance of former actor Fred Thompson into the GOP heat.

Thompson raised the most of any Republican candidate in the period, with $43,275. But because of his late entry into the race, his figure also includes money raised not just in July, August and September but June as well. Rudy Giuliani raised $39,436, Mitt Romney $32,956. John McCain still leads GOP candidates overall in Hollywood, having raised $390,016 in the industry, but he collected $32,616 in the third quarter.

The figures from the Center for Responsive Politics may change a little in the coming weeks, as the nonprofit, Washington-based org tweaks some of its classifications. The group operates the website Opensecrets.org and is a primary resource for journalists and campaigns in gathering data about money in politics.

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