During South Carolina Primary, Biden’s Hollywood Supporters Have Fingers Firmly Crossed

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden-Getty - H 2020
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A recent Monmouth University poll of South Carolina voters shows the former vice president — whose upcoming events will be hosted by James Costos and Sherry Lansing — with a double-digit lead over his next rival. Still much is riding on his ability to win by a substantial margin heading into Super Tuesday.

Joe Biden may have faltered in the early Democratic primaries, but with recent polls predicting a strong finish in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, a coterie of Hollywood loyalists are hoping that the former vice president can still right his wayward campaign. 

"It’s crunch time," says James Costos, a former HBO executive and Democratic donor who served as ambassador to Spain during the Obama administration. On Friday, Costos — who along with his partner designer Michael Smith, hosted Biden’s first high-profile Los Angeles fundraiser last May — publicly endorsed Biden. "Watching the debate and watching Joe emerge, I felt it was time that I step out in my home state and endorse the vice president," says Costos, who adds he is planning an event for Biden next month in New York City. 

Earlier this week, it was announced that Sherry Lansing would be hosting an event at her home in L.A. for Biden the day after the Super Tuesday primaries in which voters in 14 states, including California, will head to the polls. The co-hosts for Wednesday's event are California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her husband, investment banker Richard C. Blum, along with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Lansing. Tickets are priced from $1,000 to $2,800. But how Biden and his supporters are feeling after Super Tuesday will very much depend on how he performs in South Carolina, a state his campaign has gone all in on. 

A recent Monmouth University poll shows Biden with 36 percent support among South Carolina voters, granting him a wide lead over Bernie Sanders (16 percent) and Tom Steyer (15 percent), who are competing to finish in a distant second place, according to the poll.

Over the past year, Biden has made several trips to L.A. and has received support from a host of industry titans, including Paramount's Jim Gianopulos, Sony Pictures' Tom Rothman, Entertainment Studios' Byron Allen, ICM Partners' Chris Silbermann and Quibi's Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman. But in recent weeks, the one-time frontrunner has suffered a series of disappointing results, starting in Iowa, where he placed fourth. The entry of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has already blown past the $500 million mark in ad spending, has drowned out Biden's messaging and several of the other centrist candidates and has in part allowed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to emerge as the frontrunner.

Sanders finished in a virtual tie with former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg in Iowa; won narrowly in New Hampshire; and then scored a landslide victory in Nevada. Recent reports also suggest that Biden’s campaign may be heading into a cash-strapped phase, which makes the results of South Carolina’s primary that much more important to his base of donors.

Costos, however, doesn’t see it that way. He says the earliest primary states where Biden fared poorly — Iowa and New Hampshire — aren’t representative of the overall electorate, nor does he think that Biden has to win South Carolina by a double-digit margin to reset the momentum and narrative that undergirds the race. "I see Joe as really steady in that effect," says Costos. "And the more time that goes by, the more people are realizing that momentum is on his side."