Mitt Romney treks to Los Angeles on Tuesday to raise money at an event at the Beverly Hills Hotel, but despite the locale, what is most noticeable about the many supporters on the invite are the lack of Hollywood names.
As I have written before, at this point in the last cycle, the pool of industry conservatives were lining up with Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, each of whom had courted industry money and highlighted a list of celebrity supporters. That is not the case for Romney. One of the few show biz names on the list for Romney's event is Harry Sloan, the former CEO of MGM, while Terry Semel has contributed to his campaign. Romney is expected to garner support from traditional Republicans, like CEOs, lawyers and other business executives, and that is the case with those who are supporting him in entertainment.
Yet conservatives in the creative community — actors, writers, directors and other crew members — are still searching, and Newt Gingrich is the latest to get a look. A prominent conservative tells me that the fear among many on the right in the industry is that even if Romney were able to beat Obama, and there are rising doubts that he can, he won't represent much of a change from the status quo in Washington. It was telling several weeks ago when one of the highest profile of all Hollywood conservatives, Clint Eastwood, promoting "J. Edgar," showered praise on Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich ("smartest guy in the room") yet was lukewarm on Romney, and even mocked him a bit. Moreover, one of the most prolific of all industry Republican fundraisers is Jerry Perenchio, the former owner of Univision, but he is backing Jon Huntsman, and held an event for him in October.
One thing that Romney also has not done is appear before Friends of Abe, the fellowship of Hollywood conservatives that meets once a month. While the organization does not raise money for candidates, it has regularly drawn GOP leaders and presidential contenders as speakers, the most recent being Herman Cain. In turn, politicos establish relationships with individual members who go on and hold fundraisng events for them. But Romney has yet to line up an appearance before the group, which, if a meeting goes well, helps build buzz in show biz circles.
"All the usual people are supporting Romney (in Hollywood), but not with great enthusiasm," says one prominent industry conservative. "He's going to have to really fire people up."
Gingrich showed up at the star studded Kennedy Center Honors over the weekend — and to the mob of D.C. insiders he pledged that as president he would continue to support the black tie affair — but his links to entertainment also include the conservative documentary community, as he has made a slew of them himself. The National Review recently looked at Gingrich's film career, having joined with David Bossie to produce a handful of projects including ones on Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan.
But just as Obama's team believes that enthusiasm will pick up once their candidate has a foe, Romney supporters believe that should he get the nomination, the animus toward the White House and the lackluster economy can only help their candidate.
"This is the first time that the Republicans have a really good chance with independents and Democrats," Sloan says. "The focus is not on social issues; the focus is on economic issues, and on those issues there is sympathy for the Republican point of view."
The chairs of Romney's event are Beth and Josh Friedman, Eva and Carc Stern and Tracy and Gene Sykes.