Sarah Palin represents many things Hollywood liberals love to hate, from her opposition to gay marriage to her support for gun rights, yet she possesses two key qualities they admire — star appeal and a great script.
Accordingly, Hollywood Republicans — often overshadowed by their left-leaning peers — are seeking to capitalize on the celebrity of John McCain’s running mate in the November 4 election to generate support in a town well-known for its lavish Democratic fund-raisers and events.
"She’s certainly got star appeal and is the kind of candidate that is made for Hollywood. I offered to throw her a fundraiser myself," said MGM chief Harry Sloan, one of Hollywood’s most vocal Republicans.
Palin has shaken up the White House race, boosted enthusiasm among previously apathetic supporters of McCain’s presidential nomination and drawn support from women, rural voters and Southerners, according to recent polls.
Sloan said there were no plans for a Palin Hollywood fundraiser yet as her campaign managers were inundated with similar requests from all over the country after her national debut at the Republican National Convention on September 3.
A campaign spokesman would not disclose McCain and Palin’s movements beyond one week’s time, but various Hollywood executives said they heard the Arizona senator and Alaska governor would be swinging through California later this month or early next month.
Democratic candidates have long enjoyed a fundraising advantage in Hollywood. Through the end of July, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama raised $5.2 million from the entertainment industry, compared with McCain’s $885,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
"It’s like 10 to 1 here in terms of performing artists who support Obama versus McCain. There are a significant group of Republican supporters in Hollywood, but they’re just not as outspoken," said political analyst Allan Hoffenblum.
Hollywood is aligning again for Obama on September 16 when Barbra Streisand will sing at a Beverly Hills event expected to raise as much as $9 million.
While some Hollywood political watchers see Palin helping to mobilize greater celebrity support around Obama, they said filmmakers, producers and other entertainment executives were fascinated by the personal story of McCain’s running mate, including her "hockey mom" persona and passion for hunting.
"These people are interested in drama, and Sarah Palin, a pistol-packing mother of five, is clearly an interesting character. Politically, they may not agree with Sarah Palin but they are intrigued," said Joel Fox, a political analyst.
Long-time Democrat Dan Glickman, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, attended the Republican National Convention. "It’s important to show our organization has allies in both camps. Our issues are bi-partisan," said Glickman.
"The question is does she become a bigger draw than McCain? It’s too early to draw any conclusions," he said.
Palin’s arrival is encouraging to Hollywood conservatives like Robert Davi, who stars in director David Zucker’s upcoming "An American Carol," a spoof about a liberal filmmaker who wanted to abolish the July 4 Independence Day holiday.
"A lot of times, conservative guys on the set feel intimidated and unable to speak their view," said Davi, describing Palin as "energizing."
For his part, Zucker, a former liberal Democrat turned conservative Republican, hopes his movie, also starring Hollywood Republican Jon Voight, could help change how Hollywood views movies with conservative themes.
"I think Hollywood is naturally drawn to making anti-American movies. This will be an unabashedly conservative piece of entertainment. If it does well, it will have a huge effect," Zucker said.
The film opens widely on Oct 3, weeks before Oliver Stone’s left-leaning "W," about U.S. President George W. Bush.