Mitt Romney Must Wait for His Hollywood Moment

1:23 PM PST 03/27/2012 by Tina Daunt
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Tonight's Century Plaza fundraiser with draw from Los Angeles' business community, not the entertainment industry.

The truth is that the last Republican presidential candidate to gain any traction in Hollywood was Ronald Reagan—mostly because he was one of industry's own.

Neither the elder nor the younger Bush ever had much of a following in the entertainment industry and, if his candidacy had been a feature, Bob Dole would have gone straight to video. John McCain had his admirers on both sides of the political aisle, but that had less to do with his politics and more to with an authentic American hero’s great life story. (Look at the sympathetic treatment he received in HBO’s Sarah Palin biopic, “Game Change.”)

As the GOP establishment’s go-to guy in Hollywood, former Lionsgate chief Harry Sloan—now a successful investor as chairman and CEO of Golden Eagle Acquisition Corp.—knows the problem all too well, which is why he doesn’t expect any major celebrities at tonight’s Century Plaza fundraiser for Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney.

Sloan, who is co-hosting the $2,500-per-person event along with Yahoo director Gary L. Wilson, a former Disney CFO,  told The Hollywood Reporter that, “my sense is that event tonight is going to be the best event yet for Romney in LA.” Apart from former studio executive Terry Semel—a long-time Romney supporter—Sloan expects the bulk of the crowd to come from the local finance and private equity communities, where Romney’s career with Boston-based Bain Capital carries a lot of cachet.

Sloan told THR that he thinks “there will be more support [for the Republican nominee] in the entertainment industry as we get closer to the election." Like most observers, he expects that nominee to be the former Massachusetts governor. "A group of us plan to have an industry event for Romney after he's wrapped up the nomination," Sloan said.

Semel, top-drawer entertainment lawyer Bruce Ramer and singer Donny Osmond already are among Romney’s donors. The entertainment industry’s biggest Republican donor, former Univision chief Jerry Perenchio has given $500,000 to Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Romney’s candidacy. That’s on top of the more than $2 million the one-time agent already has donated to other Republican super PAC’s.

Assuming that Romney wins the Republican nomination—which seems increasingly likely—the problem Sloan and others will face as they try to draw more entertainment industry support into Romney's campaign is the bifurcated nature of Hollywood Republicanism. One of the challenges is that what used to be called the GOP’s “liberal wing” continues to exist in just two places—Maine and Hollywood.

Here it’s comprised of politically active people from the executive suites who fiscally conservative, but socially liberal. Think Nelson Rockefeller or Romney’s own father, George. (Until he reinvented himself to survive the grueling Republican primaries, Mitt was generally assumed to be part of this group—a perception reinforced by his record as Massachusetts’ chief executive.)

By contrast, the actors, writers and other entertainment industry artists who swing to the Republican side tend to be foreign policy hard-liners and, domestically, intensely ideological adherents of the conservative movement’s libertarian wing.

Hollywood Republicans, in other words, are a small but fractious group.

What about the true social conservatives, particularly the Evangelical Christians, who generally have thrown their support to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum? He’s in town this week, as well, and Wednesday Pat Boone will host a fundraiser for him at the Beverly Hills home of real estate investor Fred Wehba, a one-time backer of Mike Huckabee.

Sloan’s reaction to that competitive event?

"I didn't even know he was coming to town," Sloan said. "I'm not on that mailing list."

 

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