Joe Biden’s Campaign Gets Pre-Super Tuesday Boost From Showbiz Figures

By Ted Johnson, Dominic Patten

Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP/Shutterstock (10571192r)

As Joe Biden enjoyed pre-Super Tuesday endorsements from former opponents Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke on Monday, he’s getting more celebrity endorsements and a big boost in showbiz fundraising.

Backers expect Biden will emerge as the more moderate alternative to Bernie Sanders, who himself has a long list of celebrities, musicians and industry creatives among his supporters. After a long campaign in which Hollywood has been spreading its support to multiple candidates or watching from the sidelines, the expectation is that Super Tuesday will provide some clarity of a Biden vs. Sanders race, if it hasn’t already.

Sherry Lansing, the philanthropist and former Paramount Pictures chairwoman, said interest in a fundraiser she is hosting for Biden at her home on Wednesday increased substantially since his blowout win in the South Carolina primary, a victory that was followed by the exits of Tom Steyer, Buttigieg and Klobuchar from the race.

“I have been for Joe Biden since the very beginning,” Lansing said. “I always thought he would be the most extraordinary president.” As his campaign has had a reversal of fortunes, she said, “I am happy see that he has the momentum to carry him through.”

Lansing noted that her event had been planned to be held inside her home and had reached capacity before the South Carolina vote, but it has since almost doubled in size and will be moved outdoors.

“We had reached our goal,” Lansing said. “Then South Carolina happened and people just kept calling and calling and calling.”

John Emerson, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany who is among the co-hosts of the event, said interest in the fundraiser is “blowing up in a good sense of the word.”

He had raised money for Kamala Harris when she was in the race but endorsed Biden after she dropped out. “He is a guy who can reach you in the head and in the heart. That is a rarity in politics,” Emerson said.

Still, a number of prominent industry donors have yet to endorse anyone in the presidential race. They include Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg, as well as Haim Saban and celebrities like George Clooney, all of whom co-hosted events for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Campaigns seek out the endorsements in particular to help build a fundraising base.

Throughout the campaign, Biden has trailed Sanders in fundraising, and in the showbiz community, he’s also lagged behind Buttigieg and Harris, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, as other candidates generated substantial buzz in the media and in donor circles. Even though Biden came into the race with a substantial base of support in Hollywood from his time as vice president, donors worried about his debate performances and other campaign gaffes.

In January and February, Michael Bloomberg’s campaign held a number of industry events, building a list of industry supporters as Biden struggled in Iowa and New Hampshire. And while Elizabeth Warren has trailed in recent primaries, she has drawn the backing of figures like John Legend and Ashley Judd, and on Monday received the endorsement of Emily’s List.

But Biden’s victory on Saturday and his speech afterward helped convince some industry activists that it was time to coalesce around a candidate.

Lara Bergthold, a principal at RALLY Communications, said that she has supported Warren but is voting for Biden in the California primary. “I have been hearing people coming to realization that the pathway is Bernie or Biden,” she said. 

She added, “I think generally, everybody feels like it is time to come together, but with still some anxiety. It doesn’t feel this time we are choosing candidates and then tossing the dice. This time, there is so much more at stake … I really think people making decision on where their analysis of how they think the candidate will do against Trump.”

On Monday, Alyssa Milano and Debra Messing on Monday announced that they were endorsing Biden, and he also got the backing of Chad Griffin, the former president of the Human Rights Campaign.

“I refuse to underestimate the power of intelligence, kindness and decency,” Milano wrote on Twitter. “My friend, @JoeBiden has all of that and so much more.”

Even if Biden emerges as the clear alternative to Sanders, there is the thornier question of what happens to party unity if either is the nominee. More moderate voters see Sanders as a flawed nominee who will ensure a Trump victory. More liberal voters fear that Biden represents the party establishment that saw defeat in 2016.

Asked on Monday if he was concerned that the moderates were consolidating behind Biden, Sanders told reporters, “It is no secret … there is a massive effort to stop Bernie Sanders. The corporate establishment is coming together. The political establishment is coming together. They will do everything. They are really getting nervous that working people are standing up.”

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