Joe Biden’s L.A. Visit: Hollywood Expected To Show Big Support Amid “Pent Up” Demand, Trepidation About 2024 And Fears Of Another Trump Term
Source: Yahoo! Movies
President Joe Biden arrives in Los Angeles on Friday afternoon for his first Hollywood-centric fundraiser of his reelection campaign, amid pent up demand, some trepidation about 2024 and the potential for a return of Donald Trump to the White House.
The president will speak to a room of supporters with a number of other issues at the forefront, including the Israel-Hamas war and the fate of aid to Ukraine, as well as LGBTQ+ rights.
After arriving in Los Angeles at about 4:40 p.m., the president is set to headline a reception hosted by designer Michael Smith and James Costos, the former U.S. ambassador to Spain, with about 300 guests expected and a long list of co-hosts who include Steven Spielberg, Rob Reiner and Shonda Rhimes, as well as Rick Caruso, the real estate developer and former mayoral candidate. Joining Biden will be First Lady Jill Biden and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, while Lenny Kravitz is scheduled to perform.
The evening event is just the kickoff of a weekend of fundraising activity. On Saturday, Biden is scheduled to attend an event hosted by investors Kwanza Jones and José E. Feliciano, while he also will have smaller private gatherings with high-end donors and supporters, according to sources familiar with his plans. The first lady, too, will headline a fundraiser and private events, according to sources. All told, there are three fundraisers and three private events on the schedule, with the weekend expected to bring in a very large haul for the campaign.
While the president has made multiple West Coast fund-raising swings for the 2024 campaign, he avoided Los Angeles. Just weeks after Biden announced his reelection bid, the Writers Guild of America went out on strike, and two months later SAG-AFTRA walked out, bringing much of the industry to a standstill. Although Biden weighed in on the strikes, but his campaign was wary of him getting mired in the labor stoppage, as had a number of political figures.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, founding partner of WndrCo and co-chair of Biden’s reelection campaign, told Deadline that “having not been here since he announced, the pent-up enthusiasm and demand has gone through the roof.”
Hollywood is among the most loyal bases of support for Democrats, and the party also looks to its celebrities and high-profile figures to help drive fundraising in a way that other industries cannot. In the midterms, show biz donors gave $47.3 million to Democratic House and Senate candidates and campaigns, a record amount for an off-year election, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
That said, a source of concern, naturally, are recent polls. The Real Clear Politics average shows GOP front runner Donald Trump leading Biden, as do other Republican candidates, while some major media polls in recent weeks have showed the former president leading in key swing states. News coverage has been a stream of coverage on the numbers and seemingly endless debate over what they mean. As one bundler source put it, “I think everyone is worried.”
Katzenberg said of the fretting over the race, “It’s a natural thing that goes on but it hasn’t gotten in the way of people contributing. Anxieties and elections go hand and glove.”
The event on Friday evening was priced to draw donors at all levels, with tickets starting at $1,000 and rising to $500,000. The money will go to the Biden Victory Fund, with proceeds distributed between the Biden campaign, the Democratic National Committee and state parties. And although the event is drawing attention for its heavy Hollywood influence, the list of donors includes figures from other sectors, including Stewart and Lynda Resnick; Bob Tuttle, the U.S. ambassador to the UK during George W. Bush’s administration; and the Human Rights Campaign PAC.
Costos and Smith also hosted Biden’s first major Los Angeles event of his 2020 campaign.
“Michael and I are really proud of how we have been able to build our event to be so approachable for folks at all levels,” Costos said via text. “We were just thrilled to see the immediate reaction from people to step up and also engage with their networks … and this is exactly how we can support President Biden to win re-election in 2024.”
Here’s a look at issues top of mind to donors:
Biden’s avoidance of Los Angeles during the strikes was out of concern for raising money in the industry at a time when so much of the industry was not working — or the prospect that a visit would become an issue as writers and actors were on the picket lines, particularly if his campaign was raising from studio executives.
Other candidates also avoided Hollywood.
Screenwriter and director Billy Ray, who has been advising 85 House and Senate members on messaging, said he said to “every one of them, ‘Don’t come here right now.’”
“I wasn’t worried about the optics of it; what I was mindful of was, ‘Will it work?’” said Ray, given that so many in the industry were going without an income. As the strikes ended, that quickly changed, and candidates quickly started scheduling fundraising events.
The fallout from the strike may still have an impact on candidates aiming at smaller donor levels, as writers and actors, as well as many crew members and craftspersons, went for months without incomes. But that is not expected to affect Biden’s events, aimed at a cross section of donors. The maximum contribution to the Biden Victory Fund is $929,600.
“I think that there is a feeling that the town is going to get back on its feet again,” Ray said.
He also believes that donors are starting to look at the choice of Biden versus Trump.
“Here is the thing: All of the people that are in my political orbit were so totally flattened by the election of Donald Trump and so terrified by what happened to America. Biden is a hero to those people,” Ray said.
When Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff headlined a fundraiser last month, they were greeted by pro-Palestinian protesters outside the residence of Cliff Gilbert Lurie and Leslie Lurie.
About two dozen demonstrators shouted “free Palestine” and threw fake blood in front of the home and placing their red handprints on the ground. Harris was even interrupted by someone at the event who called for a ceasefire.
The Secret Service is tight lipped at security arrangements for presidential visits, but the demonstrations, which have played out across the country, are a reminder of the split on the left over the Israel-Hamas war. The LAPD announced that it was aware of the possibility of protests and “in coordination with the US Secret Service, additional uniformed personnel and other resources will be deployed to ensure the highest level of public safety.”
“Violence of any kind will not be tolerated,” the LAPD said.
Among Biden’s longtime Los Angeles Jewish donors, there is heavy support for the way that he has responded to the crisis, pledging to back Israel, even if there is some concern over how the crisis will ultimately impact the 2024 presidential race.
Biden is expected to address the situation even if, as Harris did, he is cautious in saying too much about the administration’s plans going forward, given that there will be pool reporter coverage of his speech. It’s also unclear if he will field questions from donors, although his private gatherings are designed to give donors one-on-one face time.
As much as Biden’s response has solidified support among Democratic Jewish donors, though, there is concern over how it will ultimately impact the 2024 campaign. Muslim leaders from the swing state of Michigan last week held a press conference to call on those in their community to withdraw this support. Biden, meanwhile, has slammed Trump for calling for a Muslim ban and noting that he rescinded the former president’s travel restrictions. As one longtime Los Angeles political operative noted, “It is so complicated and people are so crazy about this.”
The Walt Disney Co.’s ongoing lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis traces back to the company’s opposition to parental rights legislation, known by detractors as the “don’t say gay” bill, that led to the state stripping the company of control of a special district that oversees its theme park properties.
The “don’t say gay” law is just one in a wave of legislation in Florida and other states aimed at LGBTQ+ rights, particularly transgender rights. Biden has often cited his signing of a marriage equality bill in 2022 and his support for the Equality Act.
Through its political action committee, the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ+ rights organization, already has endorsed the Biden-Harris ticket and is already running ads promoting their support. The organization also has declared a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people.
Kelley Robinson, the president of HRC, cited an estimated 62 million voters who place a priority on LGBTQ+ issues as they organize for the 2024 campaign. “We have immense power and we have got to be talking to those people about what is at stake,” Robinson told Deadline.
Biden’s poll numbers have been alarming, particularly with recent high profile surveys showing Trump pulling ahead in certain swing states.
The concerns range from “his poll numbers, his age, can he win,” as well as worries that Republicans will make the race about Harris, who also has a net unfavorable approval rating, said the bundler source. The vice president does have a loyal base of supporters within the industry, from her time in California as well as from her husband Doug Emhoff’s career as an entertainment attorney.
That said, with 11 months until the election, some supporters point to the fact that the campaign has not started in earnest.
According to polls, voter discontent has centered on inflation, and even though it has been falling, Republicans have hammered the administration on the higher costs of everything from groceries to housing. Some of Biden’s industry supporters predict that public sentiment will eventually reflect the solid economic figures, including Friday’s job numbers.
Katzenberg said, “What we continue to see is a growing enthusiasm for President Biden, who he is, what his values are and most importantly what he has accomplished. We are finally seeing real signs of improvement: higher wages, inflation coming down, gas prices coming down, interest rates seem to have topped out. All those things I think are going to dramatically answer the question: Am I better off now than I was four years ago? The answer is yes.”
A Trump campaign spokesperson did not immediate return a request for comment.
Polls also show that voters would like a different choice than a Biden vs. Trump rematch.
Among some Biden supporters, the president will have the advantage once voters see the differences between the candidates in greater relief. The Biden campaign has launched only a limited number of ad spots, while the dynamics of the race very well could change. Trump also faces a year fighting legal battles. His trial on January 6th criminal charges is scheduled to start in early March. The wild card, obviously, is if Trump is not the nominee — say if Nikki Haley pulls off an upset. Reid Hoffman, a top Democratic donor, recently gave $250,000 to Haley’s SuperPAC, according to The New York Times. Haley, though, still is far to the right of Hollywood’s base of heavily Democratic and progressive donors.
Trump, though, has a wide lead in polls with just over a month before the primary season begins. And just as the Biden vs. Trump choice motivated donors in 2020 to turn out in full force, there is some expectation that it will next year, which is looking to be among the most expensive of all time. This week also has seen a wave of national media attention on what a second Trump administration would look like.
“I gave up on polls in 2016. They don’t tell us much,” said attorney Ted Boutrous, who is among the co-hosts of the Friday event along with his wife Helen. “We are still far out from the election.”
He called the election “a real all hands on deck moment for democracy.”
Boutrous added, “It is hard to come up with a list that is short enough to explain to people all the reasons Donald Trump is not fit to be president, plus all the positives of the Biden administration of the last three years.”