Unlike '08, Celebrities Are Lukewarm About Endorsing Presidential Candidates in 2012

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney shakes hands with musician Kid Rock after he performed a song at a campaign rally in Royal Oak, Mich., Monday, Feb. 27, 2012.

At a time when Republican voters seem less-than-enthused about their presidential options, it may be time for the candidates to call in some reinforcements -- celebrity reinforcements, that is.

Some high-profile, high-energy rock stars and movie stars that could fill stadiums with riled-up fans (a.k.a. voters), fill fundraisers with wealthy friends (a.k.a. donors) and fill the Internet with supportive ads (a.k.a. viral YouTube videos) may be just with the party elders ordered.

But the Hollywood divas and country music cowboys that went all-in for presidential candidates in 2008 are barely throwing a bone to the men vying for White House this year.

Find out which celebrities have made endorsements HERE.

From Kid Rock to Kelly Clarkson, celebrities are making only half-hearted shows of support, stopping short of full-fledged endorsements.

While Kid Rock agreed to perform a one-song concert for Mitt Romney fans on Monday, the rocker never actually endorsed the GOP candidate, despite Romney's official campaign song being Kid Rock's "Born Free."

Kelly Clarkson showed her support for Ron Paul via Twitter, but even in 140 characters the pop star only offered a semi-endorsement.

"I love Ron Paul," Clarkson tweeted to her 1.1 million followers. "If he wins the nomination for the Republican Party in 2012, he's got my vote. Too bad he probably won't."

After an apparent backlash from her Twitter fans over the controversial newsletters Paul distributed in the past, Clarkson ended up apologizing for expressing her support, saying she does "not support racism."

"Possibly why celebrities aren't jumping on anyone's bandwagon right now is that they don't like Santorum and they're lukewarm about Romney," said Susan K. Whitbourne, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst who has studied the effect celebrities have on public opinion. "There's just that sense that, 'These aren't people I identify with and neither do my fans.'"

That enthusiasm gap, which abounds in the general public as well as in the celebrity sphere, may be exactly why candidates should be looking to Hollywood and Nashville for co-campaigners, Whitbourne said.

"Why are we so obsessed with the celebrities? Because the public attention is looking for people to focus on and, right now, politicians aren't hot and sexy," Whitbourne said. "So if you're going to fire up some excitement, calling out the people who the public can relate to should be a big help."

But having a Hollywood hotshot riding along in the campaign bus is still not likely to lure voters away from other less-endorsed candidates.

David Jackson, an associate political science professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, said the studies he has conducted to test the influence celebrity endorsements have on young voters show that such support can reinforce a politician's image, but rarely change it.

"It's really difficult for a celebrity to transfer [their] coolness to a candidate because the candidate already has an established image," said Jackson, who researched the effects of celebrity endorsements for his book, "Entertainment and Politics: The Influence of Pop Culture in Young Adult Political Socialization."

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