The big celebrity for most of the kiddie crowd this month has been Santa, but the presidential candidates trying to lure Iowans to campaign rallies this month have sometimes called on their celebrity friends to help pack ’em in.
John Edwards had rallies with musicians Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne in November, but this month he traveled the state with Kevin Bacon, star of the 1984 movie "Footloose." During a stop in Mason City, Bacon grabbed a guitar and a microphone to perform the movie’s theme song.
Hollywood actor Tim Robbins, another Edwards supporter who traveled the state this month, criticized the media. "We are owed the truth and we are owed integrity and honesty from our politicians and our news networks. We are owed information, not gossip and yes, celebrity culture is part of the problem," Robbins said in Grinnell. "You see, it’s not what I know. It’s what you know. It’s what the people who don’t have access to microphones know — teachers, construction workers, farmers — where is their voice in the national debate?"
Edwards says there’s really no downside to having celebrities with him on the campaign trail. "So long as you don’t suggest to people that they’re going to vote or caucus for you based on you having a celebrity with you," Edwards says.
The largest celebrity-fueled rally in Iowa this year was in early December — featuring Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey was here to make a public endorsement of Obama."We must respond to the pressures and the fortunes of history when the moment strikes and Iowa, I believe that moment is now," Winfrey said. Later, when Obama spoke to the crowd, he joked that he was the third-best speaker of the day — with his wife and Winfrey ahead of him on the list.
Hillary Clinton’s biggest "celebrity" on the Iowa campaign trail has been her husband, the former president. Bill Clinton has sometimes caused controversy with his statements here and elsewhere, but the Clinton campaign deployed him around the state this past week. While he’d earlier questioned rival Barack Obama’s readiness to be president, Clinton stuck to a more conciliatory script during an appearance last week in Fort Dodge.
"For me as a Democrat this is a good election because I like all of these people that are running. I admire ’em…I like ’em all. They’re smart. They love our country. They’ve thought about these problems. They’re tried to come up with approaches that make sense…They’ve campaigned here with energy. I’m proud of ’em," Clinton said. "Shoot, I’m so old I even can say to you that I like some of the Republicans running, even the ones that I disagree with."
Republicans, for the most part, haven’t been bringing celebrity endorsers into Iowa, although Mike Huckabee’s first television ad in Iowa featured Hollywood actor and martial arts expert Chuck Norris giving a testimonial for Huckabee.