Bernie Sanders Faces Uphill Battle for Hollywood Support

Vermont senator has managed to fill stadiums across the country but the entertainment industry is still Hillary Clinton’s turf

Last Updated: July 28, 2015 @ 8:35 AM

As the media continue to obsess over Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Bernie Sanders phenomenon is quickly and aggressively gaining momentum. A new CNN poll released Sunday shows that the Vermont senator would defeat every single major Republican candidate, some by double digits.

The Sanders surge has caught even his own campaign by surprise. “It happened a lot faster than we expected and with a lot more speed,” Sanders’ press secretary Michael Briggs told TheWrap. “I don’t think anyone saw it coming.”

But even though he’s been packing stadiums with adoring supporters — he filled the 10,000-seat Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Wisconsin earlier this month — he has made only modest in-roads so far among Hollywood Democrats and L.A.-based donors.

Progressive industry figures like Mark Ruffalo and Neil Young have publicly backed the self-described socialist, and about 300 people turned out for two of his fundraising events in L.A. in June, which together raised about $100,000.

Since announcing his candidacy in April, Sanders has raised an impressive $15 million nationwide, mostly from small, grass-roots donations.

“Bernie offers authenticity,” Mimi Kennedy, the costar of CBS’ “Mom” who hosted one of the L.A. events, told TheWrap. “He understands the middle class and income inequality.”

That sentiment was echoed by the host of Sanders’ other L.A. fundraiser, longtime activist Betty Sheinbaum. “We love everything he says,” Sheinbaum told TheWrap. “Everybody who came to our event was impressed.”

But so far Sanders’ Hollywood roster — and fundraising — pale compared to Clinton’s, which boasts some of the industry’s most prominent and influential leaders, including Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, Haim Saban, Magic Johnson, Kerry Washington, Snoop Dog, Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham, to name a few.

“Hillary is very strong here,” Los Angeles-based Democratic strategist Bill Carrick told TheWrap. “Many of the folks who are helping Hillary Clinton have had a strong relationship with either her campaigns or Bill Clinton’s campaigns for a very long time. Even those who supported President Obama in ’08 are now on board with Hillary.”

While Sanders has enough money to run a credible campaign and his favorable rating has doubled since March, rising from 12 percent to 24 percent, experts say he’s going to need a lot more Hollywood movers and shakers if he wants to take the nomination from Clinton (whose favorable rating has slipped 5 points from 48 percent to 43 percent).

“It’s hard to raise the money you need to raise for a presidential campaign without having significant support from the entertainment industry,” Carrick said. “Hollywood is very important to presidential fundraising.”