Biden to join Obama, salvo of Hollywood star power Saturday in LA – Chicago Tribune


President Joe Biden is coming to Hollywood on Saturday, surrounding himself with big-name celebrities led by late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel who will interview him at a live event, along with former President Barack Obama and mega-stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts.

The Biden re-election campaign hopes to top the haul from a similar, celebrity-studded campaign stop in New York City in March, when he was interviewed by Stephen Colbert, host of “Late Night with Stephen Colbert.” That event included Obama, former president Bill Clinton, and several Broadway stars. It raised $25 million for Biden’s campaign.

But many say there’s nothing better than a Los Angeles gathering of superstars to pad the campaign’s cash reserves. And California, a blue state projected as an easy win for the president, will play a familiar role for out-of-state candidates.

“California has been called the ATM machine of national politics,” said Joel Fox, adjunct professor at the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University on Thursday, June 13.

“They come out to California to collect money to spend someplace else,” Fox added. “The state serves as an ATM for the Republican side, too, it is consistent.” He was referring to former President Donald Trump’s recent fundraising stop in Beverly Hills.

Trump and the Republican Party outraised Biden in April, raking in $76 million as compared to $51 million for Biden and the Democratic National Committee that same month. Biden said he had a $192 million war chest at the end of April, the same as previous months, meaning he appears to be spending it as fast as it comes in.

For example, Biden on June 13 launched a seven-figure ad in Spanish and English in battleground states on “lowering costs for food and rent,” raising wages and creating jobs, the campaign reported. Campaign ads are rarely aired in California.

FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2017 file photo, Vice President Joe Biden, left, watches President Barack Obama, center, at Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
FILE – In this Jan. 4, 2017 file photo, then Vice President Joe Biden, left, watches then President Barack Obama, center, at Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Some wonder if hob-knobbing with rich celebrities sends the wrong message to Black and Brown voters struggling to make ends meet. Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez disagreed.

“Celebrities support good union jobs,” he said, noting the Biden calls himself the most supportive union president in American history. “They contribute to the local economy. Film industry brings taxes to Los Angeles.” He noted some country western performers support Trump. These include: Jason Aldean, Toby Keith and Kid Rock.

Kimmel has risen from a radio career and later, a half-hour show on Comedy Central, “The Man Show” that featured testosterone-infused sketches of beer-chugging guys, female models bouncing on trampolines and toilet jokes. He has been host of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on ABC-TV since 2003, and mixes humor with serious talk.

On June 8, 2022, he interviewed President Biden on the show not long after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two teachers were killed. The two discussed gun background checks. More recently, Vice President Kamala Harris was a guest.

Gonzalez said Kimmel brings Biden’s message to a younger voting bloc — those under 45. Though born in Brooklyn, he moved to Las Vegas, Nev. with his family as a child, where he attended college and became a deejay.

“His name is connected to the campaign,” Gonzalez said. “Growing up in Nevada, a swing state, can appeal to Nevada voters. Now in California, he is a validator and has an audience who can put their support behind the president.”

Kimmel has publicly sparred with Trump. On social media, the presumptive Republican nominee heavily criticized his performance as host of the 2023 and 2024 Academy Awards shows. During the last show, Kimmel read the social media slam, then ended  with this quip: “Isn’t it past your jail time?”

This Saturday event will take place after Trump has been convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in an effort to conceal a hush-money payment to a porn star with whom he allegedly had sex. Prosecutors said it was a cover-up to prevent voters in 2016 from learning about the extra-marital affair.

It also comes just a few days after the president’s son, Hunter Biden, was convicted of three felony firearm charges involving lying on a mandatory gun purchase form by saying he was not illegally using or addicted to drugs, and illegally having the gun for 11 days.

Whether either issue will be raised by Kimmel remains a question. Kimmel’s public relations team, and Biden’s campaign both did not return emails. Gonzalez said asking about the president’s son would be “uncouth” and “irrelevant.” “His son isn’t running for president,” he said.

A Biden campaign aide told People magazine that Kimmel will ask about democracy issues, abortion rights and Obamacare and the GOP’s failed attempts to kill it. Kimmel may discuss his son, Billy, who had open heart surgery shortly after birth. On his show, he said no one should be denied healthcare because they can’t afford it, and uplifted the Affordable Care Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The event is selling tickets by donations via Eventbrite, at a not-yet-disclosed venue. Last week, it was reported Biden would attend a fundraiser at the Peacock Theater in LA Live! The invitation said the campaign will accept tickets selling from $0 to $500,000.

Fox said celebrities mixing with presidential candidates can give a campaign a jolt, but they really don’t add new voters.

“I don’t think it moves the needle much at all,” he said. “It could have some effect but ultimately, it comes down to politics and policy.”

Fox, who was a senior aide to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said at a San Diego rally, people lined a shopping plaza to catch a glimpse of the movie star, not the politician.

“The vote comes down to who is best for me in the economy, who is best for me in terms of my safety, for immigration and the wars overseas,” Fox said.

Celebrities and campaigns are not a new marriage. Ronald Reagan was a movie actor who ran successfully for governor, then president, he said.

“It’s not a new story that celebrities get involved with presidential candidates. It goes back to that famous singing of Happy Birthday by Marilyn Monroe to JFK,” Fox said.

 



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