Hillary Clinton's Hollywood Support Is Reluctant in Some Quarters (Analysis)

hillary clinton - H 2015
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hillary clinton - H 2015

As industry libs search for a Clinton alternative, doubts may erode a critical fundraising base for the Democratic frontrunner.

Hillary Clinton's Sunday announcement that she will seek the presidency in 2016 is not getting Hollywood's universal applause, as her most fervent supporters predicted.

As the first female candidate and a partner in a political marriage that has close and long-standing ties across the entertainment industry, Clinton enjoys the support from key Hollywood fundraisers. But her backing is hardly unanimous, and some of what she has is softer than it may appear because industry liberals regard her as a party centrist.

"You'd be surprised by the number of people I've heard from who aren't supporting her," one top executive told The Hollywood Reporter.

A substantial number of the town's most progressive Dems still are hoping that Mass. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a firebrand economic populist, will yield to an active draft movement. They're hoping that her consistent denials of presidential ambition are tactical rather than sincere.

Meanwhile, other industry progressives are looking to former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley, who recently has been creating waves in Iowa with anti-Wall Street and anti-free trade rhetoric. On April 23, Sony executive Eric Paquette and community activist Dixon Slingerland will host a meet-and-greet for O'Malley at the fashionable Republique restaurant on La Brea Ave. There are even some donors who are considering contributions to the recently launched "Draft Joe Biden" super PAC, and the current vice president sounded very much like a potential candidate during a swing through contributor-rich Silicon Valley last week.

For now, grumbling and uncertainty about a Clinton candidacy is mostly spoken in low tones and involves a minority of Hollywood Democrats. At least two major fundraisers already are being planned on her behalf, one of them at Haim Saban's Beverly Hills manse on May 6. The billionaire mogul, who has been the Dems' top donor in several election cycles, has been close to both Clintons for years and even constructed a guest house designed for their use in his sprawling hillside compound.

Still, Clinton's aides already have told reporters that they believe she will have to raise at least $1 billion to be competitive in the coming general election. Given Hollywood's critical importance to the Democrats' funding at all electoral levels these days, anything less than a very enthusiastic industry response could be a problem. Beyond her family's deep connections in Hollywood, her quest to become the first female president is bound to win her a great deal of support. The entertainment industry likes to feel it's on the cutting edge of history. There's also the possibility that the Republicans may nominate someone sufficiently frightening to Hollywood — say, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Wisc. Gov. Scott Walker or Kentucky's Rand Paul — so Clinton could draw support as the essential alternative.

The current reservations about her candidacy appear to spring mainly from questions about what she stands for — apart from personal ambition. In conversations leading up to today's announcement, her aides have told journalists and potential contributors — to whom she will reach out to in conference calls on Sunday — that her campaign will rest on two pillars: One is greater support for the economic welfare of the middle class; the other is her vast experience of Washington and a demonstrated ability to work toward bipartisan congressional consensus. While Clinton remains a deeply polarizing figure among right-wing Republicans, many of her former Senate colleagues across the aisle fondly remember her willingness to listen and compromise. She understands Washington and Congress, they say, in a way Barack Obama — despite his brief senatorial tenure — never has.

Even so, Hollywood is not the sort of town in which moderation stirs much passion — and that's what Clinton will need if she's to do the fundraising here that a billion-dollar campaign would require. There also may be lingering doubts about whether her moment has passed. If elected, she will be 69 when she takes office, which would make her the second oldest first-term chief executive after Ronald Reagan. (In a town that values youth — and plastic surgery — some people have complained that she is showing her age.)

For now, Clinton remains very much the Democrats' national and Hollywood frontrunner, but look for a lot of maneuvering by those who want to be in position if she should unexpectedly falter. In the entertainment industry, at least some activists will continue looking for an understudy.

April 13 at 9:20 pm. This story has been updated with the removal of a section involving Jeffrey Katzenberg. Katzenberg remains committed to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.