Considering Alec Baldwin, Candidate

Arnold Schwarzenegger is out of office just two days, but already there’s another Hollywood prospect who could jump into the political arena: Alec Baldwin.

Actually, he’s been hinting at just such a prospect for quite some time, but he told Eliot Spitzer on CNN’s “Parker/Spitzer” that he is “very interested” in seeking elective office.

“We have had 22 years of Yale and Harvard running this country and the problems aren’t getting solved,” he said, while Spitzer said that he was sounding like Sarah Palin in her attacks on Ivy League elites.

But Baldwin, a Democrat, says the country needs people “who have really not lost sight of what the middle class needs,” acknowledging that he had achieved fame and financial success but suggesting that he could relate to the struggle of average families.

As Baldwin noted, he’d be giving up what has been a resurgence of late on “30 Rock,” transforming waning career as a leading man into one as a comic performer. That may be one of the first rules he’d be breaking if he were to run for Congress or governor or mayor: Make the jump when your career is on the downswing. Schwarzenegger found diminishing returns for action roles, Ronald Reagan was long past top feature billing and the likes of Fred Grandy, Sonny Bono and John Hall (the latter from the band Orleans) found opportunities in entertainment wanting.

But as Brian Lowry points out today, Schwarzenegger helped create an environment where the fusion of showbiz and politics isn’t such a novelty.

He writes, “As Schwarzenegger begins his next chapter, however, it’s telling how much the playbook has changed since his inauguration in terms of the strange, evolving relationship between celebrity and politics — or “celebutics,” for short.”

Yet Schwarzenegger’s election, or even Al Franken’s, haven’t led to a flood of stars seeking office, anxious to seize on a new career move. But they still will have to convince voters they are serious. As Schwarzenegger said just before he left office, “always when a new person goes in you will have those doubts.”

What has changed is that it’s now a given that politicians will enter the celebrity realm, with Sarah Palin’s reality-show attention and President Obama’s late-night visits. Today’s news that GOP prospects Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney will drop by “The View” in the next month are about as unexpected as their treks to Iowa or New Hampshire.

As different as Baldwin is from Palin, he can probably take a cue from her, even if he ultimately decides against any kind of political foray: The greatest glow comes from keeping them guessing.

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