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Seeking the limelight, with the help of star power
Question of the Day
Republicans, in the midst of their primary contests, have turned to celebrities for validation with voters.
Norris recorded robocalls for Gingrich before last week’s primaries in Alabama and Mississippi. Norris, active in Republican politics for many years, endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the 2008 presidential primary.
Santorum, who has scooped up endorsements from sports figures, has also tapped into a well-known band of reality TV stars. The Duggar family has fanned out across the country during the primary season to vouch for the former Pennsylvania senator. Josh Duggar, the oldest of 19 children, made the rounds Friday at a central Missouri rally for Santorum after previously doing the same in Iowa, Oklahoma, Georgia and many places in between.
“Our family is like the epitome of conservative values,” Duggar said. “People connect to us in that way.”
The entire family planned to assemble Saturday in Illinois to give Santorum a push ahead of that state’s primary.
Some celebrities play down their onstage personas when traveling with candidates. Last Monday, Foxworthy, the Southern comedian, skipped the jokes when he campaigned with Romney in Mobile, Ala., telling audiences he had never bothered with politics before.
But it was Romney who riffed on Foxworthy’s TV quiz show, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” Obama is clearly smarter than an elementary school pupil, Romney said, but “this president has done almost everything wrong.”
Stars, Lehane says, are a net benefit. But they can be loose cannons; they don’t always subscribe or adhere to the campaign talking points. Lehane recalls Cher attracting a group of reporters at a campaign event for Gore in the fall of 2000 where she was advocating views about the Middle East at odds with the Gore campaign ticket.
“You always have to be a little bit careful when you’re dealing with a celebrity,” Lehane said., “First of all, they can be unscripted. Stuff that they can say and typically do that works in their space sometimes doesn’t translate when the political prism is put over it. Sometimes you end up having to disassociate yourself form other aspects of that celebrity’s life.”
Consider Cee Lo, the pop star who performed for 1,000 donors Friday at Tyler Perry Studios. Cee Lo has an expletive-filled hit song titled with an expletive that translates, in the cleaned up version, to “Forget You.” Not exactly Obama’s appeal for hope, or civility or of perseverance.
Associated Press writers Charles Babington, Brian Bakst, Kasie Hunt and Beth Fouhy contributed to this report.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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