Hillary Rodham Clinton launched her second presidential campaign on Sunday and heads into the primary free of opponents and with the backing of Hollywood’s biggest Democratic supporters.
Andy Spahn, who for years worked with Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen raising money for Democratic candidates, describes entertainment industry support for Clinton’s presidential race as both deep and wide. Built on years of personal friendships and often dating back to Bill Clinton’s years as president, the support for Hillary has grown as she neared a decision on another presidential run.
“Jeffrey, Steven, Haim Saban… you can run down the list. Many of us have known her since the late 80s or the early 90s. There has always been a fondness for Hillary Clinton,” said Spahn, a former head of corporate affairs for DreamWorks SKG, still a major Democratic fundraiser and co-founder and president of Gonring, Spahn & Associates.
“She is the consensus favorite here today–the strongest candidate we can field for the presidency, better prepared to govern than anyone else we could field.”
Spahn predicts the strong Hollywood relationships and Clinton’s status as the Democratic favorite will lead to a 2016 election campaign that plays out very differently than the 2008 campaign that produced champion Barack Obama.
“When we started with Barack in 2007, it was a small room. We are going to be starting in a very big room,” he said.
Trevor Neilson, a former Clinton White House aide who as co-founder of the Global Philanthropy Group matches celebrities to public service commitments and has close ties to a number of celebrities also said that Hillary has already won Hollywood over.
“I have talked to a lot of our clients and others and I am certain she will get almost unequivocal and unanimous support from the industry,” he said. (He may not have noticed Susan Sarandon‘s vocal opposition to supporting Clinton, saying, “I don’t vote with my vagina.”)
Neilson attributed the support to Clinton’s track record as First Lady, New York senator, secretary of state as well as her stance on the issues facing America. “All of that means the entertainment industry will come out in force,” he predicted.
The issues triggering the support include women’s issues, but also include many others. “The leaders of entertainment industry are business people and they want someone who is supportive of business, but they also want to stop climate change,” Neilson said.
Neilson, who helped the Obama campaign execute social media strategies, said he expected Hillary’s Hollywood support could have some of its biggest effects on her campaign’s use of social media.
“This will be most social media campaign in history of politics,” he said. “You are going to see celebrities play a huge role in that.”
He said Hollywood’s biggest stars are likely to be part of Hillary’s social media fundraising and get out the vote activities.
Further fueling widespread Hillary support in the entertainment community are concerns about Republicans, Neilson suggested former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made some “critical missteps” in initially backing an Indiana Religious Freedom Law that could have allowed discrimination by business against LGBT individuals.
Unlike 2008 when Democrats were sharply divided between Clinton and Obama, Spahn said there doesn’t appear to be any formidable opposition. “I am not aware of any Obama supporters opposing Hillary this time.”
Phil Singer, a press spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign and founder of consulting firm Marathon Strategies, echoed Spahn and Neilson’s sentiments.
“There is only one game in town,” he said. “To the extent people are likely to be supportive of a Democrat, they will be supporting Hillary Clinton.”
Another reason for the big room is issues. Whether it’s the prospect of Clinton becoming the nation’s female president, the environment and climate change, gay marriage, immigration, the Supreme Court or a number of other issues, Democrats are turning to Clinton.
Singer said heightened differences between Democrats and Republicans that have emerged since 2008 are driving home the importance of the 2016 presidential race.
“The contrast between Republicans and Democrats couldn’t be more stark,” he said. In recent elections Hollywood has been among the biggest financial backers of Democratic candidates. In 2012 Katzenberg gave $2 million to Priorities USA, a political action committee that backed Obama.
Spahn, like Nielson, expects the outpouring of support from Hollywood to be more than money this time.
“It will be writing, raising and public appearances–writing checks … making public appearance. Anything the campaign deems of value.”
While friendship cements the Hollywood-Hillary connection, Spahn makes clear that issue concerns and worries that a Republican president could reverse progress made by the Obama administration are the biggest drivers.
“This community is principally value driven, economic driven … for strengthening of middle class, gay rights, equal rights for equal work … the Supreme Court, the economic health of the country … strengthening the middle class,” he said.
He said concerns about what Republicans might undo are also driving the push for Hillary.
“Many of us remember what happened after Bill Clinton left office,” he said.
Spahn said the Democrats he talks to are looking forward to Hillary’s candidacy.
“I’ve heard people want her strength, and her leadership to, believe again in the American dream,” he said. “It feels like there is a real yearning that the nation is moving forward again.”h