LOS ANGELES – It was the Hollywood fight Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton felt she could not afford to lose. And on Wednesday, she took home the political equivalent of the Oscar.
Director Steven Spielberg, who flirted with the possibility of supporting Clinton’s rival for the Democrats’ presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, announced that he has decided instead to back the New York senator’s bid. Spielberg’s endorsement underscores what Hollywood politicos have been saying for several weeks: Members of the largely Democratic entertainment industry are getting over their crush on Obama and are now looking at Clinton as a more likely presidential prospect.
In a statement released through Clinton’s campaign, Spielberg said: “I’ve taken the time to familiarize myself with the impressive field of Democratic candidates and am convinced that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate to lead us from her first day in the White House.”
Spielberg’s endorsement comes after weeks of intense behind-the-scenes lobbying by Clinton loyalists, who were determined not to lose the director to Obama. The Academy Award winner’s support is considered the industry’s Holy Grail; not only does Spielberg’s name resonate in Hollywood’s plushest power suites where his movie grosses are admired, but also in middle America, where he is seen as one of Hollywood’s most esteemed directors.
If Spielberg had gone with Obama, after he had strongly supported Bill Clinton for so many years in the White House, it would have been seen as a vote of no confidence for Hillary Clinton’s bid.
“Spielberg is the heart of Hollywood for America,” said longtime celebrity publicist Howard Bragman. “He is one of the few people not in front of the camera who really has a profile. People grew up watching his movies. They respect him.”
In many ways, the contest for Spielberg’s endorsement became a symbolic grudge match, particularity after his former DreamWorks partner David Geffen went public with his pointed reservations about Hillary Clinton earlier this year. In February, Spielberg, Geffen and their third partner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-sponsored an Obama fundraising dinner that brought in $1.3 million. Under pressure to keep an open mind by Clinton backers, Spielberg also co-hosted at least two events in Los Angeles for the New York senator.
Hollywood political consultant and Clinton supporter Chad Griffin noted that “early in the race, many major Hollywood donors supported several candidates. But that stage of the campaign is coming to an end. Now, donors and voters alike must choose someone to take us to the White House and that momentum is headed Hillary’s way.”