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Of all the bully pulpits available to a U.S. president, none surpasses the State of the Union Address, and the importance that President Obama and the Democrats attach to Hollywood’s support was signaled anew Tuesday, when three of the president’s top campaign officials arrived to watch this year’s address with entertainment industry activists.
The president and his party are looking to Hollywood to play a major role in the fundraising efforts to recapture the House in the 2014 midterm elections. As part of the effort to enlist entertainment industry backing in that effort, Jon Carson, who directs the Democrats’ Organizing for Action committee, as well as the Obama re-election campaign’s manager, Jim Messina, and finance director Rufus Gifford arrived in Los Angeles for a State of the Union watch party at the Brentwood home of TV producer Marcy Carsey.
A select group of about 30 people, including Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Barry Meyer, investment fund manager Tom Unterman — who has many Hollywood clients — and wife Janet, political consultants Marge Tabankin and Noah Mamet, Tennis Chanel CEO and DNC mega-fundraiser Ken Solomon, former U.S. Rep. Mel Levine and Democratic activist Hope Warschaw were invited to watch the speech with Obama’s top campaign brass.
At the conclusion of the address, the group participated in a national call with Obama and others across the nation who have enlisted with Organizing for Action, an attendee at the event told The Hollywood Reporter. Carsey’s party was just the first stop in the campaign officials’ Los Angeles itinerary. Wednesday morning they’ll attend a breakfast hosted by the DNC’s Southern California finance co-chair John Emerson. Later, Carson, Messina and Gifford are set to mingle with Obama campaign donors at a lunch hosted by the law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp.
Obama’s Tuesday night address was studded with progressive themes bound to resonate with his Hollywood backers, including pleas for a new focus on job creation. “A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs – that must be the North Star that guides our efforts,” Obama told a joint session of Congress and an array of government dignitaries. “Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”
That theme built on similar sentiments the president expressed to a retreat for Democratic House members last week. “My governing philosophy and my interest in public service,” Obama told the representatives, “grows out of how we make that union more perfect for more people day in, day out. And that starts with an economy that works for everybody.”
Like the rhetorical high points of Tuesday’s address, the speech to the House Democrats echoed both the tone and themes of the president’s re-election campaign and struck a progressive tone many of his Hollywood supporters have been longing to hear.
Obama told the retreat audience that, “Throughout my (re-election) campaign and throughout many of your campaigns, we talked about this bedrock notion that our economy succeeds, and our economy grows, when everybody is getting a fair shot and everybody is getting a fair shake and everybody is playing by the same rules — that we have an economy in which we’re growing a vibrant middle class.”
The president pledged to the Democrats assembled at the retreat that he would campaign hard to help the party recapture the House in the 2014 midterms. That’s where Hollywood progressive sentiments and deep pockets come in. As the presence of heavy-hitters Carson, Messina and Gifford on the Westside this week demonstrates, the entertainment industry’s Democrats are going to be seeing a lot of the Washington crowd between now and then.
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