Celeb presence will be smaller this year for Dems
FILE - In this June 13, 2012 file photo, actress Eva Longoria waves to the fans during the 2012 Monte Carlo Television Festival in Monaco. Longoria will speak at the Democratic Convention. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Four years ago, Ben Affleck was a familiar presence around the Democratic convention, packing produce for charity and even winning a poker tournament. Singer Fergie performed with her Black Eyed Peas. Sheryl Crow sang, too, with Susan Sarandon joining in from the audience.
But none of these celebrities are planning a similar trip to Charlotte this year, and that's likely true for a number of other A-listers who were in Denver as well. In terms of star wattage, this gathering will be decidedly less sparkly.
Some reasons are obvious. A re-election bid is hardly as exciting as the historic anointment of the first black nominee, on his way to becoming the first black president. And Barack Obama is no longer a rising star: He's, well, an incumbent.
Also different is the general tone of this year's campaign — not so full of lofty thoughts about hope and change, but focused on evoking doubts about Mitt Romney. Romney is trying to do the same with Obama. "This is a campaign based on raising questions about the other candidate," says Democratic consultant Chris Lehane. "It's a whole different narrative this time."
There's also the possibility that some Hollywood celebrities have lost a measure of their enthusiasm for the candidate they warmly embraced four years ago. The most public of these has been actor Matt Damon, who as recently as last month repeated his disappointment with the president — while adding that he was still the "clear choice."
At the same time, there's a sense that the struggling economy, the central preoccupation of most voters, has cast a pall over the celebratory nature of the conventions — and that both campaigns need to be wary of too much partying, with or without celebrities. "Both the Democrats and the Republicans are cognizant of not looking decadent when the rest of the country is hurting," says Lehane.
FILE - In this Sept. 4, 2011 file photo, Lynyrd Skynyrd performs before the NASCAR Atlanta Sprint Cup AdvoCare 500 auto race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, in Hampton, Ga. Lynyrd Skynyrd is performing at the Republican Convention this year. (AP Photo/Mark Young)
Still, it can't be denied that parties — and if they involve celebrities, as the best ones do, so much the better — are an essential part of conventions. "They're a natural part of the process," says Michael Steele, the former RNC chairman. "I don't think anyone expects the conventioneers to show up in sackcloth. Parties celebrate the grueling process that has gotten us this far. They celebrate the nominee. And they fire up the troops."