Issues eclipsed by star power in presidential race

Wed Sep 17, 2008 3:31pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Celebrity is playing an unprecedented role in the U.S. presidential election, whether it's Barack Obama taking heat for a $28,500-per-plate dinner in Hollywood, John McCain grappling with the women of "The View" or Tina Fey impersonating Sarah Palin.

Republican candidate John McCain lashed out at Democrat Barack Obama's $9 million Beverly Hills fundraisers on Tuesday as an example that Obama was out of touch with common voters, but McCain, too, has his own Hollywood coterie.

Political analysts and culture watchers say the role of celebrity in politics has gone well beyond mere endorsements, which have long had only a limited impact.

This year, politicians are appearing on daytime and late night chat shows to reach a broader group of voters than they would via political programs, and Web search services report people looking for qualities in candidates that have more to do with their lifestyles than their campaign platforms.

"The power of celebrity is playing a greater role, not in celebrities (endorsing) the candidates. It's the celebrity aspect of the candidates themselves," said Robert Thompson, a professor of media and pop culture at Syracuse University.

A fractured media landscape with countless TV channels appealing to niche audiences has forced the candidates to leave a politician's comfort zone and appear on talk shows and comedy programs, experts said.

Obama's early appearances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" helped vault him to early prominence, although since he has been a declared candidate he has not been on her program.

Last week, he put in an appearance on the "Late Show with David Letterman" and tried to clarify his "lipstick on a pig" remark that raised the ire of his Republican rivals.   Continued...

<p>US Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks in Golden, Colorado September 16, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Wilking</p>