As GOP presidential candidates take the stage for the third Republican debate in Boulder, Colorado, on Wednesday, Hollywood conservatives say they’ll be glued to their TV sets in the hope of getting one step closer to picking their candidate for the 2016 presidential race.
While most are leaning toward a specific presidential hopeful, many say they haven’t made up their mind yet, insisting it’s still anyone’s game.
“I’m supporting Ted Cruz,” Lionel Chetwynd, an Academy-Award nominee and member of leading conservative Hollywood group Friends of Abe, told TheWrap. “I think he’s very smart, articulate and he has a lot to say.”
Chetwynd says many people at FOA are also warming up to retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who’s seen his numbers skyrocket lately, surpassing GOP frontrunner Donald Trump in recent Iowa polls.
Dave Berg, another FOA member and former co-producer of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” told TheWrap he likes former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina but is now considering getting behind Florida Senator Marco Rubio. He’s going to be keeping a close eye on both candidates on Wednesday.
“I was so impressed with Carly Fiorina last time,” Berg said. “She did great and she shows she has great communication skills. But I’m a little concerned that she hasn’t been able to capitalize on her strong performance during the last debate. I’m just not sure she has staying power.”
Michael Ramirez, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist told TheWrap that while Donald Trump has presented an “excellent opportunity” in terms of his career, he’s leaning towards Rubio.
“He’s very articulate and has a firm conservative foundation,” Ramirez told TheWrap. “All the things that he’s saying seem to resonate. I think he has a good chance going up against Hillary Clinton.”
A lot has changed since the last time the GOP field faced off at Simi Valley, California last month. Donald Trump has continued to surge in the polls, challenging the notion that he’s a flash-in-the-pan candidate. Carson has further cemented himself as a leading candidate. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who entered the primary in July as a front-runner in Iowa, dropped out of the race. Carly Fiorina, who surged in the polls following the second GOP debate, has seen her numbers all but evaporate. And Jeb Bush, who was largely considered the establishment nominee by many in the Republican Party, is struggling to stay afloat.
Hollywood Republicans say that while many conservative industry insiders have a candidate they’re eyeing, no single presidential hopeful has managed to fire up the group as a whole.
“The views in conservative Hollywood reflect the views of conservatives in general,” said Berg. “There is no one voice or unified agreement as of yet.”
While Hollywood is predominantly a Democratic turf, there are plenty of Republicans in the entertainment industry, albeit much less visible than their Democratic counterparts.
Founded by actor Gary Sinise in 2004, Friends of Abe is the leading conservative Hollywood group with a reported 2,200 members.
But FOA has kept a deliberately low profile over the years for fear that members might be blacklisted in an overwhelmingly liberal industry. Even so, some big Hollywood names, like Jon Voight, Pat Boone and Kelsey Grammer have stated publicly that they are members.
The group has already met with several 2016 GOP hopefuls including Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Carson, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Donald Trump.
If there is any consensus among Hollywood Republicans, it’s that Donald Trump will likely not win the nomination when it’s all said and done. But if he does, they will rally around him.
When asked whether he could see himself voting for Trump should he win the Republican nomination, Ramirez said, “The simple answer is yes. And the reason being, it comes down to what the alternative is.”
The Republican debate airs Wednesday, October 28 at 8 p.m. on CNBC.