Key Hollywood Donor Backs Joe Biden for President, Says Others Could Follow (Exclusive)
Agent Jay Sures tells THR: "I believe Biden is the most qualified person to be president, and there are lots of people in Hollywood who believe the same thing."
With Vice President Joe Biden apparently edging closer to a presidential run, some Hollywood heavy hitters are signaling that they plan to support him over potential rival Hillary Clinton.
United Talent Agency managing director Jay Sures, who has become a major force on the Hollywood political-fundraising scene, tells The Hollywood Reporter he not only will back the vice president, he also expects other leading industry Democrats to come forward and do the same.
Sures says Biden’s much-talked-about Sept. 10 appearance on Stephen Colbert’s CBS Late Night show, during which the vice president movingly discussed the recent death of his son Beau Biden, prompted many in Hollywood's donor community to take a second look at the vice president.
“The appearance was a defining moment for Biden,” Sures tells THR. “It exposed a side of him people here have not seen before, a much more human side. His authenticity just came shining through.”
Unlike Clinton, who, with her husband, Bill Clinton, has spent decades cultivating support in the entertainment industry, Biden, 72, has not stood in many Hollywood living rooms or backyards over the years. But if he gets into the race, that quickly will change, says Sures, an early Obama bundler and key fundraiser for Democratic senatorial candidates.
“Biden is incredible,” says Sures. “He’s a guy who has been in public service for 40-some years, who really understands what the average American is going through. And, coming out of the loss of his son, he has a message of hopefulness. I would get front-and-center behind him if he decides to run.
“There are some people who love Secretary Clinton and think she’s amazing,” continues Sures. “But there is a very large group of people who want there to be a real debate on the Democratic side. At the very least, the two of these people running against each other will make the nominee a better candidate.”
Adds Sures: "I believe Biden is the most qualified person to be president, and there are lots of people in Hollywood who believe the same thing."
Another influential Hollywood fundraiser who recently met with the vice president in Washington echoes Sures' comments to THR, though not for attribution.
"People in Hollywood have literally been begging Biden to enter the race," says the source. “Everyone seems to want him to run now. A lot of Obama people who went to Hillary initially are prepared to jump ship and go to Biden.”
According to sources, George Clooney — who helped raise millions of dollars for Barack Obama last cycle — is one of the Hollywood politicos giving Biden serious consideration. (Clooney’s spokesman, Stan Rosenfield, did not respond to a request for comment. The actor has yet to publicly announce whom he is backing for president.)
Meanwhile, another Hollywood source tells THR that it hasn’t been easy for Clinton's industry supporters to sell tickets for her upcoming fundraiser on Sept. 27 at the Los Angeles home of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chairman Rob Friedman in the wake of recent controversies surrounding the former secretary of state's campaign.
Even so, Clinton, 67, retains many key Hollywood backers, including megadonors Haim Saban, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and even David Geffen, who famously bolted for Obama in 2008. Biden, if he runs, would face an uphill battle coming up with the funds to challenge Clinton, who already has amassed tens of millions in campaign donations.
"WE appreciate the VP for dedicating his whole life as a public servant," media mogul Saban told THR in an email. "However, Cheryl and I are firmly in Hillary’s corner, and she WILL be the next US President. Over and out."
CAA agent Michael Kives, one of Hillary’s top LA bundlers, said he’s seen no indication that Clinton’s support in Hollywood has slowed down.
“As far as fundraising goes – I’ve had one of my best weeks yet,” Kives said. “People loved her on Jimmy Fallon, felt like the e-mail non-story was behind us, and were ecstatic about our prospects after seeing the Republican debate.”
Another insider has characterized Hollywood's response to a possible Biden candidacy as "divided." "Biden is beloved, but there’s a fear he can’t raise money."
Hollywood fundraising vet Andy Spahn, meanwhile, recently told the Washington Post that he has "much respect for the job Joe Biden has done as VP, but it's too late in the game to mount a credible campaign. We hope he will join us all in support of Hillary Clinton's candidacy."
Interest in a potential Biden candidacy has increased since a weekend Wall Street Journal report stated that Biden’s aides have been calling major Democratic donors to say that it looks more likely that the vice president will jump into the race. Most of those conversations reportedly centered on the timing of Biden’s announcement.
According to reports, Biden’s advisers are debating over the best time for the veep to declare his candidacy. He reportedly met with his team to discuss an early declaration that would assure him a place in the Democratic debate scheduled for Oct. 13. They also are honing his campaign message and moving ahead with plans to raise money and hire staff.
Meanwhile, while Clinton has trailed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, a new poll shows her 21 points ahead in Iowa. If the well-liked Biden jumps into the campaign, Clinton’s road to the White House could become a good deal rockier.
According to a recent Reuters report, nearly 50 Democratic donors and party activists already have signed a letter urging the vice president to run, calling him a leader "who understands the real challenges facing American families."
Sept. 22, 9:10 a.m. Story updated to include a comment from Haim Saban.