John McCain’s resurgence in the presidential race is bringing new life to his campaign in Hollywood.
Last week, he won the endorsement of Sylvester Stallone, and MGM chief Harry Sloan will host a fund-raiser for him at his home Jan. 31.
Supporters of Rudy Giuliani, who has all but dominated Hollywood’s recent attention among the field of GOP candidates, are understandably anxious as he faces the critical test of performing well in the Florida primary Jan. 29. Jon Voight has been campaigning for him in recent weeks, and recently told the Associated Press, “I know there is no second place. I know this has to happen, and Florida’s got to do it.”
McCain and Giuliani each have garnered almost equal levels of support from donors in the entertainment industry: As of the end of September, McCain garnered $386,325 and Giuliani took in $376,826, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Those are significant tallies, but a far cry from the more than $2 million that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each have raised in the Democrat-dominated industry.
Much of McCain’s money, however, was raised before his campaign faltered last summer, forcing him to cut staff and pare back ad spending. Naturally, fund-raising dropped.
Giuliani, meanwhile, drew high-profile support from Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Miller and Adam Sandler. Robert Duvall hosted a fund-raiser for him last fall. And he drew the backing of such prominent Hollywood Republicans as Lionel Chetwynd and Joel Surnow. Many cite Giuliani’s stance on national security, his “strength and resolve,” as Voight says. Giuliani is scheduled to attend fund-raisers this week in Northern California, Palm Springs and Orange County.
No one has switched their allegiances so far, but there obviously will be a lot hinging on Florida and Giuliani’s fate there. Unlike the rest of the field, Giuliani has deployed a risky strategy of bypassing early states and scoring well in Florida and the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday states. Essentially, he’s bypassing the momentum of early wins to devote more time and resources to states with large pools of delegates.
“At the end of the day, it is all about the delegates,” says Jon Liebman, CEO of Brillstein Entertainment Partners and a longtime friend of Giuliani’s, who is chairman of his California finance leadership team. “After the 29th, you essentially have a national primary.”
Sloan, meanwhile, says his event is drawing those still on the fence, contributing to multiple candidates, or backers of candidates who have dropped out of the race, like Fred Thompson.
“As (McCain) wins each primary, the ticket sales have gotten better and better,” he says.
He notes that McCain’s backing from independents in 2000 and his friendship with John Kerry in 2004 helped give him a positive stature in Hollywood.
Sloan says he actually sought McCain out in summer 2006, and, after meeting at the Beverly Hilton, agreed to help out his presidential bid. He hosted a fund-raising event for McCain in January 2007, where he told those gathered that he thought the Arizona senator was “the most principled political leader of our generation.”
Sloan thinks McCain may have crossover appeal in entertainment and the rest of California. Moreover, a polarizing race between Obama and Clinton could leave independents considering McCain.
“I do think that once the Democratic race is decided some Democrats will give John a good look,” Sloan says.
Hollywood has tended to steer away from candidates who, as one analyst put it, are perceived “as being captive to the social conservative wing of the party.” But it doesn’t mean support for such a candidate isn’t out there.
Mike Huckabee is scheduled to raise money at the home of producer Steve McEveety Jan. 30. And Huckabee, of all people, has made the most aggressive use of an entertainment figure, a man who follows him on the campaign trail: Chuck Norris.