Democratic Strategists Worry President Is Too Close to Hollywood

President's trip to donor-rich California yields success, but at what cost?

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President Obama is working hard to rebuild his support among Hollywood celebrities and leaders of the entertainment industry, who strongly backed his 2008 campaign with their endorsements and their money. And it looks like he's having considerable success, judging by his trip to donor-rich California this week.

But some Democratic strategists wonder how close the president should get to Hollywood elites at a time when millions of Americans are suffering economic hardship and have little tolerance for the self-important dabbling of movie and TV stars in politics and policy. The Hollywood crowd brings excitement and stirs public interest, but getting too close could make Obama seem to be a showhorse when a workhorse is what people really want. [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]

There had been some concern among Democrats that entertainment industry leaders might not open their wallets for the 2012 campaign after celebrities, including actors Matt Damon and Robert Redford and director Michael Moore, expressed disappointment in Obama because he hasn't delivered on more of his promises.

But in Los Angeles this week, there was no dearth of stars at Obama's fund-raisers. He attended one event Monday hosted by actors Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith that included 200 guests, who each paid at least $5,000. Obama also spoke at a separate fund-raising dinner attended by 40 persons, including actor Will Smith and former basketball player Magic Johnson, at a cost of $35,800 each. On Tuesday, Obama attended a private meeting in Los Angeles of entertainment-industry insiders including studio executive Harvey Weinstein and record company executives Livia Tortella and Craig Kallman. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said, "It was not a fundraiser. It was just a discussion — brief, very brief, like 10 minutes — with some supporters." Of course, the checks will probably arrive later. It won't be clear how much money Obama has raised from Hollywood until official fundraising reports are released at year's end. But the receipts should be impressive. [See editorial cartoons about President Obama.]

Obama told his Hollywood guests that, even though he has had his share of setbacks, he remains committed to a sweeping agenda of change. At one point, Obama referred to a checklist of his top priorities and said, "We've got about 60 percent done. I'm pretty confident we can get the next 40 percent done in the next five years."

This is what the Hollywood crowd wanted to hear. The question for Obama is how closely he wants to be associated with the stars when his target audience should be more down to earth, in Middle America.

  • See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.
  • See editorial cartoons about President Obama.
  • See who's been visiting the White House.