NEW YORK (AP) — Hollywood loves the Next Big Thing, and four years ago, that was Barack Obama, the equivalent of a breakout movie star.
“He is ‘The One,’” said Oprah Winfrey, his biggest and most influential celebrity champion.
“The best candidate I’ve ever seen,” said George Clooney.
Halle Berry said she’d “collect paper cups off the ground to make his pathway clear.” Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am chimed in with the famous “Yes We Can” video.
But you can’t be the Next Big Thing twice and as a new election year dawns, there’s clearly a different mood in heavily Democratic Hollywood.
That means less gushing, not to mention snippets of criticism, most prominently from actor Matt Damon, who campaigned for Obama last time but now makes no secret of his disillusionment.
“I think he misinterpreted his mandate,” Damon said earlier this year. He recently told Elle magazine the country would have been better off with a one-term president with guts, although he used a saltier word.
The adulation of the 2008 election may be significantly muted among Hollywood liberals, as with liberals elsewhere, but Obama’s supporters say that’s only natural, given the circumstances. Fundraisers there say that events have been selling out and there’s plenty of enthusiasm.
They also say the nation has focused on the GOP race to pick a challenger to Obama and that once that choice is made, the Democratic base will become energized.
“The moment the Republicans have their nominee is when you’re going to see anyone still on the fence jump in,” says Chad Griffin, a Los Angeles-based communications strategist and Democratic fundraiser. “Once you have a head-to-head matchup, the contrast will be grand.”
Numbers compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics show that while overall political contributions were up in Hollywood for the first three-quarters of this year compared with the same period four years ago, contributions to Democrats were slightly down.
According to the group, the movie, television and recording industries gave $17,639,267 in the first three-quarters to federal candidates and parties. The breakdown was 71 percent to the Democrats and 29 percent to Republicans, as opposed to $15,642,561 four years ago, when 77 percent went to the Democrats and 23 percent to Republicans.
But numbers for the Democrats were down by more than $2.5 million from four years ago — $9,249,303 this year compared with $11,966,077 four years ago.
Obama’s fundraisers note that four years ago, Obama was locked in a tense primary battle with Hillary Rodham Clinton, and primaries drive early fundraising.
“A re-election is always different,” says Andy Spahn, a longtime political adviser to one of the top Democratic fundraisers in the nation, DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, along with his partners Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.
He calls the current mood among Hollywood Democrats a “matured enthusiasm,” but says support is strong.
Though Damon’s remarks about the president have been the most pointed, other celebrities have expressed disappointment, or at least mild disillusionment.
“I love the president like most of us,” Sean “Diddy” Combs told Source magazine this year. “I just want the president to do better.”