Celebs hit campaign trail ahead of vote

Obama, Romney partisans hope to make the difference

Hollywood figures from the left and the right weighed in in the final weekend before the election, with producers and writers canvassing in swing states, stars pushing a flood of new get-out-the-vote Web videos and a collection of musical artists hitting the trail with President Obama and Mitt Romney to rally supporters.

Rupert Murdoch, one of the few outspoken media CEOs who is backing Romney, took to Twitter at several points during the weekend to offer his latest views of the state of the race. He wrote Sunday morning, “Seems slight edge to Obama, but Romney seeing small late surge. Many state polls look unreliable.”

Norman Lear, writing at the Huffington Post, implored voters to consider the consequences of a Romney win on the Supreme Court. But in an interview, he predicted an Obama win on Tuesday.

Though Obama’s campaign doesn’t have the historic import of four years ago, entertainment supporters tried to convey a sense of urgency in getting out the vote, warning of the consequences if Romney prevails on Tuesday.

Will.i.am debuted a new video, “#GreatTimes,” aimed at getting voters to the polls and trying to capture some of the inspiration of his 2008 hit “Yes, We Can.” In a video for the Obama campaign, Will Ferrell pledged to cook dinner, move furniture or even eat garbage if that is what it took to get viewers to the polls. Cher and Kathy Griffin warned that, in Griffin’s words, “Romney and his buddies are trying to turn back time on women’s rights.” “This is sick stuff,” Cher said of statements by Richard Mourdock, GOP Senate candidate in Indiana.

A satirical video from Joss Whedon, in which he posits that Romney would be the best candidate to “finally put this country back on the path to a zombie apocalypse,” passed 6.1 million views on YouTube, making it one of the most popular viral videos of the election cycle. Its popularity was perhaps driven not just by pickup in the national media but by Whedon’s huge following as creator of “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” and director and writer of “The Avengers.” Although a whimsical attack on Romney, the video generally got a favorable reaction from comments posted at one of Whedon’s fan sites, Whedonesque.

The videos extended to other races. James Franco, Marisa Tomei and other celebrities headlined a series of spots in favor of California’s Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically engineered foods, while Lady Gaga taped a get-out-the-vote video to drum up support for a quartet of same-sex marriage initiatives on ballots in Minnesota, Maryland, Maine and Washington.

Political consultant Lara Bergthold, who as deputy national political director for John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004 organized industry surrogates and support that year, said that the viral videos “are great at doing two things: creating a cool vibe for citizenship that gives young people the feeling that they’re missing out if they’re not participating. (It) inserts humor into a process that by now feels dominated by negative ads and excessive voter contact. I think this year’s videos have been the best ever.”

Bergthold, now an adviser to Lear, was in Nevada along with a group of volunteers from Los Angeles who trekked to Las Vegas to canvass for the Obama campaign. They included Marti Noxon, Sarah Timberman, Ed Redlich, Jane Cha, Rob Ramsey, Vince Ventresca and Monica Rosenthal.

Others were dispatched to the crucial swing state of Ohio. One of Obama’s campaign bundlers, Noah Mamet, a political and philanthropic consultant with a specialty in entertainment, was with three others from his L.A. office in Cincinnati, where they knocked “on over a thousand doors,” he said.

“The enthusiasm is very high and people are motivated to vote,” Mamet said. “It is also true that some voters in Ohio just want the election to be over since they’ve in inundated most of the year.”

He added, “The Obama campaign has assembled the best field operation in the history of American politics and the feeling is the Romney campaign, based mostly on paid media, won’t be able to compete with the massive statewide Democratic operation in turning out actual voters on Tuesday.”

Mamet and a number of other fundraisers from Los Angeles, including Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon, Capitol Group’s John Emerson, attorney Joseph Calabrese, political consultant Andy Spahn and producer Colleen Bell planned to be in Chicago for election night.

The weekend also saw a number of stars on the trail with the candidates themselves. On Sunday, rapper Pitbull spoke at Obama’s rally in Hollywood, Fla., while Stevie Wonder was to perform at an event in Cincinnati, and Dave Matthews was to deliver an acoustic performance in Aurora, Colo. A day earlier, Matthews also performed at a Virginia rally, Katy Perry was in Milwaukee and Kate Walsh spoke and John Mellencamp performed in Dubuque, Iowa.

The use of celebrities to build enthusiasm also was apparent in the Romney camp: The Oak Ridge Boys performed at a Romney rally in Des Moines on Sunday, while Rodney Atkins and Sam Moore performed at a Romney event in Cleveland. Clint Eastwood, who spoke at the Republican National Convention and appeared in a pro-Romney SuperPAC ad, taped a robocall for the American Crossroads SuperPAC heard by voters in swing states.

On the final day of campaigning, both candidates planned appearances at rallies with star artists: Romney has rallies planned with Kid Rock and the Marshall Tucker Band; Obama is being joined at an event by Jay Z and has a series of events with Bruce Springsteen.

The most unusual event of the weekend may have been the Million Puppet March, in which hundreds came to Washington to protest calls for cuts to public broadcasting. Although billed as a nonpartisan event, the march was inspired by Mitt Romney’s comments in the first presidential debate that the federal government could no long afford to fund PBS in the face of rising budget deficits. The march was organized by Chris Mecham, a political science major from Idaho, and Michael Bellavia, a Los Angeles producer and president of Animax, an animation and interactive production studio. Fittingly, one of the chats of the crowd was, “Whose street? Sesame Street!”

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