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Obama steers clear of Hollywood as he sets off fundraising


When Barack Obama leaves Washington this week on a crucial fundraising expedition, he will head to Chicago and to the capacious homes (and pockets) of friendly bankers and media tycoons. Hollywood is not on his schedule this time – the welcome there would surely be more muted.

Numbers released by the Los Angeles Center for Responsive Politics back up what has been in the ether for months: the massive crush suffered by some in Hollywood on Mr Obama in 2008 – think Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney – has dissipated and will not be recreated with anything like the same intensity as he seeks re-election this year.

True, it is unlikely that whoever emerges from the Republican nomination derby – which starts in earnest on Tuesday with the caucuses in Iowa – will be able to count on Hollywood for much either, because the town is still Democrat to its manicured fingertips. According to the new data, 71 per cent of the $17.6m (£11.3m) given in political donations by Hollywood in the first three-quarters of last year went to Democrats. Still, that is less lopsided than it was in the same period before the 2008 elections, when they got 77 per cent of all donations. The new study says that gifts to Democrats from Hollywood fell by more than 25 per cent compared with four years ago.

Team Obama has known of the curdling of Hollywood's affections for months. In May, at the annual White House correspondents' dinner, the President felt obliged to crack a joke at the expense of Matt Damon, who was already sniping about the President's performance since being elected. "Well, Matt, I just saw The Adjustment Bureau, so right back atcha, buddy," he quipped, referring to a new Damon film.

Even will.i.am, who backed Obama in 2008, expressed disenchantment earlier this year to The New York Times. "I don't want to hope any more," he said, before clarifying a little. "I don't feel disappointed. I feel like, Argggh! Speak louder! I feel like: Do something!"

Still, while there is money in Hollywood, most inevitably will go to liberal causes and candidates, even if, in power, the Democrats have proved less liberal than many in the community had hoped. "The moment the Republicans have their nominee is when you're going to see anyone still on the fence jump in," said Chad Griffin, a Los Angeles communications strategist and Democrat fundraiser.

There are some in Hollywood who have made it plain that they do not subscribe to the Obama-has-let-us-down school of thought. "I'm disillusioned by the people who are disillusioned by Obama," Mr Clooney commented recently. "I'm a firm believer in sticking by and sticking up for the people whom you've elected."