For campaigns, celebrity endorsements can be a mixed bag. On the good side, they can help build the brand—if the celebrity is well known and loved, and his or her image dovetails with the campaign's outreach efforts to voters. In the business world, companies seek out celebrity endorsements for the same reasons, which is why we see tennis great Roger Federer as a celebrity spokesman for Rolex, and Mike Rowe, the Dirty Jobs guy, plugging Ford pick-up trucks, for example. They're good fits for those brands.
In politics, though, campaigns can't choose their celebrity endorsers, and they have to welcome them all into the tent. On the Republican side, celebrity endorsers have ranged from Gloria Estafan and James Earl Jones to Meat Loaf and The Donald. The trick is knowing which celebrities to rely on and when, and which can help with specific pockets of voters. Republican Pat Sajak of Wheel of Fortune, for example, is beloved among a certain set of voters. Same with Tom Selleck and Mary Lou Retton. (Similarly, there's probably a good reason we don't see too many high-profile GOP ads starring Meat Loaf. There's a strategy at work.)
So while Republicans usually garner more support among country music stars like Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson—entertainers who may live glamorous lives but at least some of the time are singing about what it's like to lose your job, lose your house, and lose your wife—Democrats this year have been attracting leaders from the fashion industry. There's a long piece in today's Washington Post about the widespread fashion industry support for the Obama campaign, and how Michelle Obama's support has been very lucrative for some designers.
This brings us to the bad side of celebrity endorsements. Unfortunately for Democrats, having haute-couture fashion elites endorse Obama isn't the best in tough economic times. But the campaign is going ahead anyway. Take a look at the latest Obama campaign ad, from Anna Wintour of Vogue Magazine:
Reportedly, Wintour was the basis for the lead character in The Devil Wears Prada. She is the queen of the fashion elite. She doesn't come across as knowing what it might be like to lose your job or your house or your wife. She goes for luxury brands and cutting-edge designers. She's wealthy and British-born. While she's very talented, the clothes she puts on the pages of her magazine are not clothes that the rest of us would consider affordable or "accessible" or sometimes even appropriate in polite company. She watches the Paris catwalks from the front row. We watch What Not to Wear from the family room.
The question is, does Anna Wintour help Democrats build their brand? With women like me, the answer is no. The bigger question is, does the Obama campaign realize that? No again. She's disconnected from women in the real world, and the Obama campaign is too out of touch to realize it. In a campaign where the left is trying to portray Mitt Romney as elite, wealthy, and disconnected from "real" women, putting Anna Wintour front and center is a mistake. She's making Mitt Romney look like they guy next door.
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