In battle of the stars, Obama beats McCain

August 28th, 2008 - 12:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Denver/Los Angeles, Aug 28 (DPA) “With friends like Madonna who needs enemies?”That thought must have raced through the minds of Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign managers, after the pop diva kicked off her latest world tour over the weekend with a video montage of the world’s problems - which showed images of presumptive Republican nominee John McCain and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

The Republicans had a field day alleging that Madonna was comparing the US politician to the dictator, and driving home the argument that Obama and his celebrity backers were out of touch with the American mainstream.

Such rhetoric is one of the major planks of McCain’s campaign, and it appears to be working.

The veteran senator drew even in the polls shortly after airing what was, by popular consensus, his most effective ad to date. That was the one in which he labelled Obama the world’s biggest celebrity and compared his ability to govern with that of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

It’s no wonder that McCain is trying to turn Obama’s celebrity support against him. For decades, such tactics - painting the rival candidate as elitist and divorced from the reality of the lives of ordinary Americans - have been the standard Republican operating procedure to neutralise the overwhelming advantage the Democrats enjoy in celebrity endorsements.

It remains a mystery how scions of American aristocracy like McCain and George W. Bush can get away with such arguments against people like Obama, who pulled himself to the top from the humblest of beginnings.

But don’t expect to see too many pictures of Obama being bear-hugged by the legions of stars that have descended on Denver this week for the Democratic presidential convention.

A partial list includes actors Chevy Chase, Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron and Daryl Hannah, television talk show host Oprah Winfrey, filmmakers Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee, singer Sheryl Crow and Black-Eyed Peas founder Will.i.am.

Also widely rumoured to be on their way are famously liberal George Clooney and heartland rocker Bruce Springsteen.

Many are making the trip to the mile-high-city - called so because its exact elevation is one mile above sea level - even though the swanky hotels to which they are accustomed are so full that they are reduced to staying in suburban motels, Fox News reported.

Compared to the Democrat’s impressive list, the roster of McCain celebrity supporters resembles a line-up whose fading stardom had forced them into the undignified world of reality TV shows: The Beach Boys, rock guitarist Sammy Hagar, country music singer-songwriters Gretchen Wilson and LeeAnn Rimes, and musician Charlie Daniels.

Does the star-gap matter?

Most polls show that even in our celebrity-besotted society the endorsement of an actor or music star has little or no direct effect on the voting of their fans. It might even be negative.

The only exception could be Oprah. A pair of economists recently calculated that her endorsement of Obama was worth one million votes in the Democratic primaries. They arrived at the figure by cross-matching the election results with sales of books from her book of the month club.

What’s most ironic, however, is that it’s the Republican Party that is unabashed about converting celebrity stardom into political power. Only three prominent actors have ever made it on a national political stage in recent years - all of them Republican.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor of California and “Law & Order’s” Fred Thompson was a senator for Tennessee and candidate to be the Republican presidential nominee.

Ronald Reagan, hailed by many Republicans as the greatest post-war president, was also a former movie star.

Maybe being a celebrity politician can work after all.

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