Experts, GOP react to Obama's celebrity support


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Obama for America has reached out primarily to young voters with a plethora of celebrity appearances.

Obama supporters say celebrity appearances draw youth attention to the election, but some local experts and Republicans said it shouldn’t be the only strategy.

Comedian Seth MacFarlane, best known as the creator of “Family Guy,” visited Iowa City on Oct. 20, wrapping up President Obama’s Campus Takeover Week. The aggressive early voting initiative by the Democratic Party has brought many high-profile names to the state and Iowa City specifically, from actor Justin Long to singer Bon Jovi.

Speaking at an intimate roundtable event at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 405 office in downtown Iowa City, MacFarlane pushed the importance of getting out early to vote for the upcoming presidential election, while delivering his familiar comedic demeanor. 

“Iowa is one state who will help decide this election,” he said. “With Obama, you benefit. With Romney, I benefit. But I don’t need the help, you do."

University of Iowa Associate Professor of political science Tim Hagle said recent celebrity visits to Iowa City and the state are due in part by Iowa’s standing as a swing state. The endorsements, when used with caution, can be beneficial to the campaign.

“I think it’s a wonderful tool, and like any tool, you have to use it appropriately and not go overboard,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity if you’e here in Iowa to get engaged in the political process.”

Hagle also pointed out the use of celebrity endorsements by political parties.

“You just have more celebrities that tend toward the liberal side,” he said. “Part of it is because Hollywood leans left.”

Hagle said celebrities have the ability to attract those who aren’t very in tune with politics.

“The 18-22 age group were an important part of Obama”s coalition in 2008,” he said. “By bringing out these celebrities, it gets student attention who may have not been previously aware.”

UI Democrats President Katherine Valde, who was in attendance for the event, said she was happy to see a strong showing.

“I’m pretty pleased with the turnout being that it was a home night [football] game,” Valde said.
She said early voting events, often promoted with celebrity headliners, help attract young voters.

“It energizes students who have been actively involved in politics, and it reminds you that there are people outside of Iowa who are motivated by the same issues you are,” she said. “The Democratic Party is the party that is moving issues forward, and we are on the right side of history.”

However, UI College Republicans President Kelsey Boehm was direct in her stance on the pending presidential election and celebrities endorsing political figures.

“I think that [celebrities] can be a positive thing, but I think it’s more important to look at the issues and not who’s supporting the candidate," she said.

Speaking to the packed union office, MacFarlane urged the audience to give the president time.

“Everyone is going to expect [Obama] to magically fix [the economy] overnight,” he said. “The economy that Obama inherited was much worse off than the economy Clinton inherited.”

MacFarlane also mentioned the change in political environment and voter attitude from the 2008 election and talked of the importance of keeping the enthusiasm for the vote.

“I think this time around, we’ve seen a little bit of lack of energy we had in 2008,” he said. “It’s really all about enthusiasm.”

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