Politics as entertainment

Candidates need to be ready to craft their Hollywood pitch

And the winner is ... both!  That was the outcome of the Kristen Bell-Toby Keith-hosted debate in the opening segment of Wednesday night’s CMT Music Awards. The show began with the two performers campaigning for the top host spot. Voters for this election included the likes of Jon Bon Jovi and Matthew McConaughey, as well as President Obama and Mitt Romney. The president and his challenger appeared in separate skits where they deliberated over their votes for host. In the end, the politicians proposed that Bell and Keith equally share the spotlight. 

That isn’t the only thing they agree on. The other is finding a place for their campaigns in the entertainment world. Hollywood and awards shows may not be on Romney’s radar by choice, but he has to be where the competition is. Last Sunday night, Obama’s campaign aired its first national TV spot during the MTV movie awards. The 30-second ad consisted of actress Sarah Jessica Parker introducing Obama’s latest fundraising effort - a sweepstakes for a dinner with her, Vogue editor Anna Wintour and the first couple on June 14. 

Parker’s commercial came on the heels of a web video the Obama camp released featuring Wintour, which promoted the same funder. In response, the Republican National Committee released its own web video pointing out that the unemployment rate rose to 8.2 percent at the same time as the Obama camp was publicizing this swanky event.

This isn’t the first Hollywood fundraiser for Obama. George Clooney recently hosted an event at his home in Los Angeles that raised nearly $15 million for the president, and just on Wednesday Obama was at Glee-creator Ryan Murphy’s Beverly Hills mansion for a funder.

Hollywood seems to have made it clear where its support – and money – is going. But will there be celebrity backing – and the media coverage that goes with it -- for the GOP side this year? It doesn’t look like it, at least if this past Tuesday is anything to go by.

Gov. Scott Walker (R) won the recall election in Wisconsin on the same day actor Liam Hemsworth proposed to former Disney Channel actress Miley Cyrus. NBC, ABC and CBS spent more energy covering the couple’s engagement than on Walker's victory, which shows the campaigns what they’ll need to do to capture voters’ attention.


Mandie Suits works at Smart Media Group, a Republican political media buying agency in Alexandria, Va.  She is from Saint Albans, W. Va. and is a graduate of West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism.

A version of this post was also published on Smart Media Group’s blog, Smart Blog.

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