Which presidential candidate had the best celebrity supporters? (w/poll)

Ben Smith put up a post about Barack Obama’s prominent early supporters, who came on board when he was seen as having little chance of beating Hillary Clinton. Here is his list:

Senator Richard Durbin

Former Majority Leader Tom Daschle

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

Oprah Winfrey

Iowa Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald

Former Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Gordon Fischer

Ted Sorensen

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine

Alabama Rep. Artur Davis

New Hampshire Rep. Paul Hodes

It’s easy to forget now that Gordon Fischer was on the fence between Clinton and Obama for some time last summer. He told the story of how Obama’s campaign hooked him in an interview with New Yorker journalist Ryan Lizza:

Obama, who had sometimes seemed to eschew the details of campaigning which Clinton appears to revel in, has become more enmeshed in the state’s idiosyncratic politics. Consider the conquest of Gordon Fischer, a former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. Every campaign wanted Fischer’s endorsement, but the Obama campaign pursued him relentlessly. At a recent lunch at the Des Moines Embassy Club, a restaurant on the forty-first floor of the tallest building in the state, Fischer explained how Obama’s Iowa operatives used his closest friends to persuade him to back Obama. One, Lola Velázquez-Aguilú, managed to decorate part of Fischer’s house with photographs of Obama that featured thought bubbles asking for Fischer’s endorsement. (“Has anyone told you how great you look today?” an image of Obama taped to a mirror said. “So, are you ready to sign a supporter card?”) When Obama staffers learned that the late Illinois senator Paul Simon was a hero of Fischer’s, they asked Simon’s son-in-law, Perry Knop, to call Fischer and make the case for Obama. At one point, Obama himself invited Fischer onto his campaign bus and told him that he had to stay aboard until he agreed to an endorsement. When Fischer insisted that he had to make the decision with his wife, Monica, Obama demanded Monica’s cell-phone number, and he called her at once. “Monica, this is Barack Obama,” he said when her voice mail came on. “I’m with your husband here, and I’m trying to go ahead and close the deal for him to support my candidacy… . Discuss it over with your man. Hopefully we can have you on board.” The Fischers were sufficiently impressed to endorse him, two weeks later. “I think the Iowa campaign has been run better than the national campaign,” Fischer said.

When I read Lizza’s article last November, I showed that passage to my husband, who remarked, “That’s actually a really good argument for scrapping the caucuses.” I’m sure that wasn’t Fischer’s intention, though!

But I digress.

Ben Smith’s post reminded me that I’ve been meaning to put up a poll about which candidate had the best celebrity supporters.

For the purposes of this diary, I am focusing on celebrities who publicly endorsed or campaigned for a candidate. Lists of famous donors can be deceiving, since many rich and famous people give large sums to multiple candidates:

Actor Michael Douglas, for example, has contributed to five current and former Democratic presidential candidates. As of Sept. 30, the latest reports available, he had donated the maximum $4,600 $2,300 for the primary campaign and $2,300 for the general election to Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd, and $1,500 to Dennis Kucinich.


Another serial donor in the current election is Paul Newman, who gave the maximum contribution to Obama, Clinton, and Dodd, and $2,300 to Richardson.

Some donors have spread the wealth around but have decided to back one candidate. Barbra Streisand gave $2,300 each to Clinton, Edwards and Obama, and $1,000 to Dodd, but recently endorsed Clinton for president.


Steven Spielberg and Rob Reiner are two other celebrities who donated to multiple presidential candidates four a piece before settling on Clinton. Reiner also shot a spoof video for Clinton’s Web site.

Actress Mary Steenburgen gave money to both Edwards and Clinton, but has backed Clinton, a friend for three decades, from the get-go. Steenburgen, a native of Newport, Ark., met the Clintons when Bill Clinton was in his first term as governor of Arkansas.

Last month the Huffington Post published this piece on the top ten celebrities for Clinton and Obama. Here is their list for Obama:

1. Oprah

2. will.i.am

3. the Kennedy women (Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and Maria Shriver)

4. Ben Affleck

5. George Clooney

6. Scarlett Johansson

7. Samuel L. Jackson

8. Chris Rock

9. Robert De Niro

10. Jennifer Aniston

At least I have heard of these people. When I first saw will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” video, I swear that the only person I recognized was Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

HuffPo’s list of top ten Clinton supporters:

1. Ellen DeGeneres

2. Elton John

3. Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen

4. Jack Nicholson

5. Natalie Portman

6. Mario Lavandeira (I never heard of him, but apparently he is the celebrity blogger Perez Hilton)

7. America Ferrera (star of “Ugly Betty”)

8. Magic Johnson

9. Barbra Streisand

10. Eva Longoria Parker (star of “Desperate Housewives”)

The list of other famous people who have donated to Obama or Clinton is of course very long. I know that Bruce Springsteen and Tom Hanks are also public Obama supporters. If I’ve left out celebrities who played an important public role in either candidate’s campaign, please let me know in the comments.

John Edwards: A bunch of big Hollywood names donated to his campaign, but most of them did not play any public role, and many also gave money to other Democratic candidates.

I was fortunate enough to see one of the mini-concerts Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne did for Edwards in Iowa last November. They also campaigned for him in New Hampshire. Tim Robbins came to early-voting states to stump for Edwards as well. I heard from a friend who saw Robbins in Des Moines that his first comment to the crowd was, “I’m not Oprah.” Ben “Cooter” Jones, former Congressman and star of the tv show “Dukes of Hazzard,” also campaigned for Edwards in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

UPDATE: I can’t believe I forgot that Madeleine Stowe, Kevin Bacon, and James Denton (of “Desperate Housewives” fame) also came to Iowa to help out Edwards. In addition, Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte endorsed Edwards. Jon Mellencamp not only supported Edwards, he also invited him on stage during a concert in Des Moines.

Bill Richardson: Again, a lot of big Hollywood names maxed out to his campaign, but most of them didn’t endorse him. The exception was Martin Sheen, who came to Iowa in December to go out on the stump with Richardson. Sheen endorsed Obama after Richardson dropped out.

Joe Biden: The famous people listed here as his donors mostly contributed to other candidates as well. I cannot recall any celebrities coming to Iowa to campaign with Biden, but please correct me in the comments if I am wrong. He was often accompanied by family members, especially his sons Beau and Hunter. (UPDATE: I forgot that Richard Schiff, who played Toby the communications guy on “The West Wing,” came to Iowa to campaign with Biden.)

Chris Dodd: Many of the famous people who donated to his campaign also donated to other candidates. However, it is worth mentioning that singer-songwriter Paul Simon campaigned with Dodd in Iowa last July, and former Democratic Senatorial candidate Ned Lamont campaigned with Dodd in Iowa last November.

Dennis Kucinich: Viggo Mortensen came to New Hampshire to campaign with Kucinich after the candidate was left out of the last presidential debate before that state’s primary. Apparently Sean Penn gave Kucinich money during the 2004 campaign.

I am not aware of any celebrity supporters of Mike Gravel.

Click “there’s more” to take the poll after the jump.

  • How about Norris?

    On the list of prominent early Obama supporters, I think John Norris should be there instead of Gordon.  Like you pointed out, Gordon was not onboard that early.  I saw Norris at various Obama meetings and at his IA headquarters very early.  With his background, I also suspect his input had more to do with Obama’s success than anything Gordon did.

    • we are on the same wavelength

      I am in the process of writing another post about early Obama supporters, and I was going to highlight John and Jackie Norris.

  • Madeline Stowe for Edwards

    and Kevin Bacon (whom I actually met when he surprise popped into the Des Moines HQ. ANOTHER great reason to volunteer for a campaign.) Also, John Mellencamp and James Denton (Desperate Housewives) was for Edwards. As was Jean Smart. Jean came into the office too and was eating Tasty Tacos with all of us staff and volunteers! Jean is very down-to-earth and was quite funny too. In addition, the rising star of the Democratic Party Bruce Braley endorsed Edwards pre-caucus.

  • Besides inviting Edwards up on stage...

    Mellencamp did a final concert for Edwards at the Val-Air Ballroom the day before the caucuses to end Edwards’ 36-hour campaigning. And for Obama, I know John Legend provided some entertainment prior to the JJ Dinner at their pre-gathering place.

  • Oscar winner

    Forest Whitaker stood in for Obama at the Johnson County BBQ.

    He was crowned “Best Actor” for his portrayal in Last King of Scotland.

    • he should have been on the top ten list

      I love that guy.

      The Crying Game was a phenomenal performance too, as was A Soldier’s Story.

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