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The Final Sprint: How Hollywood Had An Impact on 2012

Weekly_ted_zomney_obamaIn the final days before the most expensive and one of the most
caustic elections in political history, one of the more popular Web
videos comes from Joss Whedon, who “endorses” Mitt Romney because he
thinks it will put the country “on the path to the zombie apocalypse.”

With
more than 5 million YouTube hits since it was introduced on Oct. 28,
the video is biting, satirical and perhaps the first major play for the
ComicCon vote.

It also illustrates Hollywood’s influence in this election cycle, and how many in the biz are still fighting the fight.

Brad
Pitt has pledged $100,000 to support same-sex marriage in ballot
campaigns in four states, while Robert Redford recently sent out a
fundraising appeal for support of Democrat Richard Carmona, the former
Surgeon General who is running for Senate in Arizona . Answering a call
from the Obama campaign, DreamWorks topper Stacey Snider served as a
poll-watcher of early voting in Nevada.

In the election’s
remaining days, a number of entertainment figures will be out on the
trail, making phone calls or volunteering . Jon Voight is traveling with
the Romney campaign, while a host of celebrity supporters were
queueing up for Obama over the weekend. Jack Black and Ryan Adams led
get-out-the-vote efforts for Obama last week in Ohio and Colorado,
respectively. Bruce Springsteen will travel with the prez in the
campaign’s final day, Nov. 5, and play at three stops: in Madison, Wis.;
Columbus, Ohio; and Des Moines, Iowa.Actually, given how much has been
made of the “enthusiasm gap” among showbiz’s Obama supporters this time
around, as well as whether candidates would be wise to embrace the
industry’s elite during tough economic times, Hollywood has played a
surprisingly larger role in this campaign than seemed likely from the
start — which now feels like eons ago. Instead of treating showbiz
supporters with at least some trepidation, both Democratic and
Republican campaigns have embraced them.

Some examples:

FUNDRAISING
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama had collected
$6 million from movie, TV and music donors as of the end of September .
In 2008, his campaign took in a total of $9.2 million from such
donors . But the 2012 figure doesn’t include money raised by
outside groups that are proObama. Among these , Jeffrey Katzenberg
chipped in $3 million, Steven Spielberg gave more than $1 million and
Morgan Freeman wrote a check for $1 million. The chance to rub elbows
with celebrities provided and even bigger impact : A May fundraiser at
George Clooney’s home raised almost $15 million for the prez , the
majority coming from an online contest in which smalldollar donors could
enter to win tickets to the event. The Obama campaign repeated such
contest fundraisers with Sarah Jessica Parker and National Basketball
Assn. players, while the Romney campaign offered dinner with the
candidate and Donald Trump . Down-ballot candidates also used celeb
tie-ins.

ENDORSEMENTS
In April, the proRomney
SuperPAC American Crossroads put out a Web video, “Cool,” that targeted
Obama as a “celebrity president,” featuring shots of him slow-jamming
the news on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” and dancing with Ellen
DeGeneres. Last month, the same SuperPAC decided it would rather join
Hollywood than fight it , and put out a spot featuring Clint Eastwood,
whose primetime slot at the Republican National Convention may have
been ridiculed elsewhere, but earned cheers in the convention hall.

THE WARNING SHOT
The uplifting message from 2008 has given way to dire scenarios if the
other guy wins. That was true of the Eastwood ad spot, as he predicted
that the country “couldn’t survive” another Obama term. But it also is
true of a MoveOn spot, in which Scarlett Johansson, Eva Longoria and
Kerry Washington auger what will happen to women’s health if Romney and
Republicans are elected. “If you think that this election won’t affect
you and your life, think again,” Johansson says. The tone also is
reflected in Web videos, not just from Whedon, but in get-out-the-vote
efforts in which Sarah Silverman and Samuel L. Jackson use profanity to
call attention to what is at stake in the race.

That’s a far cry
from 2008, when we saw Ron Howard gathering Henry Winkler and Andy
Griffith for a pro-Obama video, and Will.i.am leading the viral
phenomenon, “Yes, We Can.” In fact, many this cycle have voiced the
feeling that they are burned out by politics.

As the race enters
its final stretch, some in entertainment are making last-ditch efforts
to improve the discourse, with hopes of creating some uplift amid the
oppositional campaigning. Last week, Ne Yo, Johnny Rzeznik, Herbie
Hancock, Delta Rae and Natasha Bedingfield released a Web musicvideo,
“Forward,” capitalizing on Obama’s campaign slogan, but made outside of
the campaign structure. The song was written by Gregg Alexander and
Danielle Brisebois, as well as Fred Goldring, who was executive producer
behind “Yes, We Can.”

Goldring says he was initially reluctant to
come up with another grassroots effort, in part because he was turned
off by the negativity this season. “It was all about money and how much
can you raise to help counteract ads (from the other side),” he says.

But
Goldring adds that his relative noninvolvement was making him feel a
bit guilty. “I wasn’t as active this time. But I thought that we needed
something, a bit of a spark going into the end of the election.”

There
had been a lack of inspirational messages, he says, and the group aimed
to deliver one. They eventually got the talent together, working for
eight days on the video at a cost of less than $40,000, roughly the
price of a single ticket to a high-dollar presidential fundraiser.
Introduced last week, the musicvid had collected about 700,000 views in
its initial few days. Goldring hopes it will be “an anthem to bring
people together,” and leave supporters with a positive feeling as all
the electioneering comes to an end.

Certainly the initial feeling of many in Hollywood at the finish of this election cycle is more likely to be one of relief.

Photos: Images from Joss Whedon’s YouTube video and from American Crossroads’ “Cool” ad.

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