Iowa Caucuses Draw Celebrities to the Campaign Trail

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, and Vampire Weekend lead singer Ezra Koenig wave during a campaign rally at the University of Iowa, Jan. 30, 2016, in Iowa City, Iowa.PlayEvan Vucci/AP Photo
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At times, presidential politics seems a lot like the “Hunger Games.” Perhaps no one knows that better than Josh Hutcherson, the star of the film series who turned up in Iowa over the weekend to campaign for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

“Wow, Iowa’s crazy, man,” Hutcherson, 23, told a crowd of several thousand at a Sanders rally Saturday night in Iowa City. “I’m here because I’m Bernie, and I think you guys are all here for the same reason, obviously. You know, I feel like right now this is what we need; we need this revolution.”

So Josh Hutcherson was feelin the Bern last night...10 feet in front of me

A video posted by Alicia Anne Freiburg (@aliciaf42) on Jan 31, 2016 at 8:00am PST

Joining Hutcherson at the mega-event were members of indie band Vampire Weekend, Matt Foster from the band Foster the People and singer Jill Sobule.

WE MET EZRA WE MET EZRA WE MET EZRA ?? #vampireweekend #FeelTheBern

A photo posted by Mary Dhondt (@marydhondt) on Jan 30, 2016 at 1:32pm PST

And it’s not just Peeta who has been hitting the campaign trail. Susan Sarandon has also been stumping for Sanders, Jamie Lee Curtis headlined fundraisers for Hillary Clinton and Phil Robertson, patriarch of the reality-television show family on “Duck Dynasty,” has been leading duck calls on stage for Ted Cruz all weekend (his son, Willie Robertson, has been out supporting Trump).

Even “Bachelor” star and Iowa voter Chris Soules was spotted with Gov. Chris Christie in Des Moines, although he has been telling the curious he has yet to decide which candidate he'll support.

Yes, Hollywood came to the Hawkeye State in the final days before the first official presidential nominating contest of 2016 with candidates hoping to use some star power to propel them over the finish line.

“Seeing that Josh Hutcherson was going to be there was a big deal for me,” said Alicia Freiburg, 20, a “Hunger Games” fan and student at the University of Iowa who attended the Sanders rally in Iowa City.

Freiburg, who initially planned on voting for Rand Paul, told ABC News that the actor made Sanders seem more accessible, especially for younger voters.

“It made it seem like the caucus isn’t just for the old folks,” she told ABC News, “it’s important for everyone to go out and vote.”

Alyssa Mastromonaco, the former director of scheduling and advance for President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, said “celebrity adds a bit of excitement and energy.”

“In the days leading up to the caucus or an election, it's not enough if people have come out to see you once,” she said. “You want them to keep coming so you don't lose their attention.”

Certain stars can also help bridge ideological or demographic gaps.

In 2012, for example, Kid Rock joined then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on the trail with the hope of increasing Romney’s numbers in the Rust Belt and Southern states where his country-rock music is popular. And in December 2007, Oprah Winfrey gave Obama a boost with women in Middle America when she appeared on the campaign trail with him before the Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries.

“For someone like Bernie, having a feminist like Susan Sarandon helps send a message. She serves as a validator for him with women who are perhaps on the fence,” Mastromonaco said. “And for Hillary Clinton--when polls say she is struggling with enthusiasm among young people and young women-- getting someone so a part of current culture like Lena Dunham is nothing but upside. People may come out to see Lena, but leave having heard Lena communicate the message being 100 percent Clinton supporters now.”

But stars are voters, too.

Richard Dreyfuss of “Mr. Holland’s Opus” and “Jaws” fame showed up at a Sen. Ted Cruz event in Ames on Saturday, telling reporters who noticed him in the front row that he wasn’t there to endorse Cruz or any candidate, but wanted to check out the political scene for himself.

It seems he, like the Iowa caucusgoers the stars are meant to convince, is still undecided. On Sunday, Dreyfuss, who once played a Republican senator vying for the White House in “The American President,” was spotted at a Carly Fiorina event, too.

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