Obama Rewards Loyalists Eva Longoria and Kal Penn With Big Campaign Roles
The nearly three dozen re-election committee “co-chairs” named by President Barack Obama Wednesday are an interesting indication of the incumbent’s strategic thinking as his campaign shifts into high gear. Taken together, the appointees are a roadmap not just to where the president and his political advisers see his support, but also to where they hope to deepen or extend it.
Two of the 35 nominees — Eva Longoria and Harold and Kumar star Kal Penn (real name Kalpen Modi) are longtime and unwavering Obama supporters. She vigorously campaigned for him last time around and he actually served for a time as associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Their appointment recognizes not simply their personal loyalty to the president, but also the importance Obama and his political strategists attach to Hollywood in this crucial stage of their reelection effort. They’ll be looking to the entertainment industry for both contributions and high visibility celebrity endorsements of the sort both Longoria and Penn provide.
One of the striking things about the co-chair list is the number of Latinos — seven (or one out of every five appointees.) The Latino vote went to Obama in 2008, but hard economic times have battered many communities of recent immigrants — like Los Angeles — and some activists have been disappointed by the president’s tepid engagement with the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. Wednesday’s appointments indicate that the Obama reelection campaign is determined to shore up its Latino base with appointments ranging from San Antonio’s popular mayor Julian Castro to Los Angeles chief executive Antonio Villaraigosa and local labor leader Maria Elena Durazo of the AFL-CIO.
Apart from Latinos, the biggest single bloc among Obama’s new co-chairs consists of Californians, who occupy six of the slots. They include not only Durazo and Villaraigosa, but also two of the state party’s rising stars, San Gabriel Valley congresswoman Judy Chu and state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, another of Hollywood’s political darlings.
According to the Obama reelection campaign, the new co-chairs will act as the president’s electoral ambassadors with a special emphasize on getting out the vote in all 50 states.