© 2024 WFSU Public Media
WFSU News · Tallahassee · Panama City · Thomasville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What Role Are Celebrities Playing In This Presidential Race?

Ryan Benk

Should celebrities be using their fame to inject themselves into politics? In some cases, they’re endorsing one of the presidential candidates on their own. But, as the election looms nearer, both campaigns are kicking it up a notch by placing celebrities in swing states, like Florida, hoping they can sway voters.

“I hope you like Seinfeld, and this is all very exciting. And, I’m always happy to do the celebrity thing too, but the truth is, it’s nothing about what I am and what I do for a living. This is really just about citizenship.”

It’s not lost on actor Jason Alexander that his celebrity is helping draw crowds at campaign events for President Barack Obama. Alexander is more widely known for his portrayal of George Costanza, a main character on the TV sitcom “Seinfeld.”  He’s also one of several celebrities touring the country to get as many people to vote, especially in toss-up states.

And, one of Alexander’s more recent campaign stops is college campuses in Florida, including Florida State University in Tallahassee. He says it’s crucial young voters early vote, and he talked about how these same young voters can help persuade sway other voters, even among their family members:

“Keep talking to them," said Alexander. "I brought my dad over from the dark side. It can be done. Here’s a good tip: don’t start with your wrong, don’t start with you’re an idiot. Start with what’s important to you. And, as they start to tell you what’s important to them. And, as they start to tell you what’s important to them, you’ll see for the most part, their selfish best interest is better served by our policies, than the ones they think are going to help them. It’s just a rational conversation. And, you can guide them to see the light.”

But, the Obama campaign is not the only campaign utilizing celebrities. The Mitt Romney camp is too. Even during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, one of the most talked about moments of convention was actor Clint Eastwood’s performance with an empty chair, which was supposed to be Mr. Obama:

“I wondered about when the….What? What do you want me to tell Romney? I can’t tell him to do that to himself. You’re absolutely crazy. You’re getting as bad as Biden," Eastwood said, which was met with much laughter by the RNC crowd.

But, not everyone’s been laughing with Eastwood. Take black actor Charles Dutton. At a recent stop in Tallahassee to promote a national NAACP campaign about allowing ex-felons to vote at a non-partisan event, Dutton blasted some of his conservative celebrity colleagues.

“When you get idiots like the idiocy of Eastwood’s demonstration that day, the singer, Hank Williams Junior, when you get those kind of people representing your [Republican] party, calling the President every name imaginable, why do you think African Americans don’t want to lean in that direction,” remarked Dutton.

One black actress who is now leaning in the direction of the GOP is actor from the 90s show “Clueless,” Stacey Dash. She voted for Mr. Obama last election, but recently, on twitter, she announced to her followers that Romney is “the only choice for your future.” Soon after, she was criticized for her views to the point of receiving death threats, and in a recent interview on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, she addressed her critics:

“I really don’t understand the fury. I don’t get it. I’m shocked and saddened, not angry," said Dash. "But, you know what? You can’t expect everyone to agree with you. It’s my constitutional right to have to have my choice about who I want to vote for, for President. And, I chose him, not by the content of his skin, but the content of his character.”

In addition to twitter, celebrities are taking to using more traditional media to get their political views across to the public, like web videos. That includes Walker, Texas Ranger” star Chuck Norris. Here’s an ad he and his wife released in September titled “Chuck Norris' dire warning for America.”


Celebrities come in all shapes and forms, and one who was injected into the election unintentionally is Big Bird. That’s after Mitt Romney mentioned him during the first presidential debate, saying he’ll stop the subsidy to PBS even though he likes Sesame Street’s Big Bird personally. The Obama campaign has since started running ads with the comment, but the Executives who run Sesame Street has asked the campaign to take down the ads since Sesame Street is "non-partisan.”

As of Thursday, the Florida Department of State reported that Floridians have cast more than 147,000 absentee ballots in the presidential race. That’s out of about 2-million Florida ballots that have been mailed since Thursday. And, now that the voter registration deadline has passed, both Obama’s and Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s campaigns are focusing on winning as many votes as they can in Florida. That means, there could be more celebrities in store for Florida’s future leading up to the election.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.