Talk to anyone in Hollywood about the 2016 presidential race, and it’s pretty much unanimous that the entertainment industry is Hillary Clinton’s turf — whether they’re personally on Team Hillary or not.
But Clinton’s support from Hollywood — once considered unshakable — is starting to show some foundational cracks as some Hollywood donors and fundrasiers are jumping ship to join Team Biden.
Former Clinton fundraiser, Cookie Parker, who raised more than $25,000 for the former Secretary of State earlier this year, told TheWrap she’s now supporting Joe Biden because he’s an extension of an already successful administration.
“If you love a CEO and a president of a certain company, and they’ve done a really good job running it, and the CEO decides to retire, why wouldn’t you go with the president?,” said Parker, a former co-founder of KMS, a Los Angeles based software company with clients in the entertainment industry.
Parker is one of nearly 50 prominent Democratic Party fundraisers who signed a letter on Friday encouraging the vice president to enter the 2016 presidential race. Though it might not sound like a large number of people, consider this: Parker managed to fundraise $2 million for President Obama and Biden in the last two presidential cycles. She expects to raise at least $1 million for Biden this time around, should he toss his hat into the ring.
“I’ve talked to people not only in Los Angeles but also in New York, D.C., and people nationwide and there are quite a few people out there that are waiting to see if the Vice President is going to get in or not,” Parker said.
“Every new day is bringing new bundlers for Joe Biden,” National Finance Chair for Draft Biden, Jon Cooper, told TheWrap. “This includes a good number who are switching from Hillary Clinton. I know of at least a half dozen former Clinton bundlers who’ve pledged to raise money for Biden as soon as he enters the race. And those are just the ones I’m personally aware of.”
United Talent Agency managing director Jay Sures, a major Hollywood player, already signaled he’ll be supporting Biden and is recruiting other Hollywood Democrats to join him.
While Clinton is still far ahead of her Democratic rivals in most polls, she’s now running neck-and-neck with three of the four leading GOP candidates.
Making matters worse, Biden is already outperforming Clinton when matched against GOP rivals.
The Vice President beats former Florida Governor Jeb Bush by 8 points (48 percent to 40 percent), retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson by 8 points (49 percent to 41 percent), former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina by 6 points (47 percent to 41 percent), and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump by a 56 percent to 35 percent margin, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this week.
Meanwhile, Clinton leads over Trump by only 10 points (49 percent to 39 percent), and is statistically tied with Fiorina, Carson, and Bush.
“What really struck me is that I want to be a better person when I’m around Vice President Biden,” Beata Stylianos, who raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for Obama, told TheWrap.
After donating the maximum amount allowed under the law to Clinton’s campaign earlier this year, she’s now switched over to Biden’s camp. Stylianos, the CEO of L.A.-based Mission Critical Technologies, a software supplier to the entertainment industry, said she met Biden three years ago after her husband passed away. Biden gave her advice on how to deal with her grief. “He really listened to me and his advice really helped me in my transition,” she said.
While part of Biden’s surge can be attributed to the fact that he’s not officially a candidate, his favorable numbers are through the roof. Biden is viewed favorably by 49 percent of voters, while 40 percent see him unfavorably. Meanwhile Clinton has 43 percent favorable rating and 53 percent unfavorable.
Biden is so popular, CNN announced that he could participate in the first Democratic presidential primary debate even if he jumps into the race as late as the day of the debate on October 13.
“Draft Biden [the Super PAC supporting the Vice President] has been reaching out to people they know,” Samantha Millman, a bundler for Biden, told TheWrap. “They want to make sure the infrastructure will be ready for him from day one.”
Millman raised $200-$250,000 for Obama/Biden in 2012 and expects to raise at least that much this time around. While she says she’s always been a Biden supporter, she would consider bundling for Clinton should the vice president decide not to run.
But despite Biden’s increasing popularity, Clinton’s camp says the vice president would have a tough time winning the party’s nomination. “There’s still quite a distance between them,” L.A.-based Democratic political consultant Donna Bojarsky told TheWrap. “And that’s before getting into the race when he starts being scrutinized.”
As for the 50 donors who signed the letter urging Biden to run, Bojarsky says they are not “surprise donors” but rather “people who were longtime Biden backers.”
Either way, it’s clear Clinton’s campaign is feeling the heat. While there are still more than 13 months until the general election, her dip in the polls could potentially scare donors from shelling out any more money, at least until the numbers stabilize.
While Draft Biden supporters say they are “on track” to raise $2.5 million to $3 million, the super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton has raised $15.6 million in the first six months of 2015 — thanks in part to some astronomical donations from billionaire financier George Soros and Hollywood luminaries Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams and Jeffrey Katzenberg and Haim Saban.
That’s on top of the $47 million her campaign raised, mostly from smaller donations. A lot more money has been pouring in since then.
“Look at how much money Hillary has raised,” said Bojarsky. “[Biden] is not a huge challenge.”