Celebs Come Out for GOP, Too

Big names in St. Paul include Jon Voight, Gretchen Wilson and the Beach Boys.


Sept. 3, 2008 -- Celebrities brought Hollywood glitz to Denver last week at the Democratic National Convention, but that doesn't mean the Republicans arrived in the Twin Cities without their own dose of star wattage.

The names themselves -- Daddy Yankee, Jon Voight, Robert Downey, Jr., and Ben Stein among them -- don't quite hold the same selling power on an Us Weekly cover as the Democrats' lot, who counted the likes of Ben Affleck, Oprah Winfrey, Susan Sarandon, Kanye West, John Legend, and Jennifer Lopez among the stars that dazzled Denver.

Stein, an actor and economist who was a speechwriter for the Nixon and Ford administrations, said it "feels great" to be famous at the RNC but that other stars shine brighter.

"You could take every member of the Hollywood Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences and line them all up...I couldn't care less. I want to see somebody who is risking his life for the country, that's what I call a star," Stein said.

"We have several celebrities participating in this year's convention and we certainly don't use the numbers that were in Denver as any type of representation on behalf of our party," said RNC spokesperson Melissa Subbotin. "It's open to how you would define who is a celebrity."

Celebrity definitions aside, the famous are in St. Paul, and where they go, clusters of Republicans follow.

Country singer John Rich, who has been on the campaign trail with McCain, will be "Raisin' McCain" on the main floor of the convention Wednesday night to warm up the crowd in advance of vice presidential pick Gov. Sarah Palin's address to the convention. Rich will sing the national anthem, followed by an original tune written for the Republican nominee. He tells ABCnews.com he hopes to "get the delegates all out of their seats, get fists pumping and ready to hear Governor Palin."

"My job here at the RNC is probably just to inject a little more excitement into everything and be a part of the younger movement behind John McCain," said Rich, who also performed Tuesday night for Texas delegates with country star Gretchen Wilson. "Being a songwriter, this is my small way of supporting John McCain."

While Robert Duvall narrated Tuesday night's video highlighting the GOP's "Service" theme, actors Voight and Downey were spotted in the Xcel Center this week posing for pictures with delegates. Voight has been a vocal critic of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and effusive about the addition of Palin to the Republican ticket.

The endorsement of Voight's daughter, Angelina Jolie, has been famously courted by both presidential candidates, though the actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador has yet to announce her '08 pick.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who called Palin an "outstanding" VP pick with a "real vibe" on ABC's "The View" Tuesday, plans to make a quick appearance at the RNC. Hasselbeck will host a luncheon for potential first lady Cindy McCain during the afternoon, shoot a piece for "The View" and then fly home the same evening.

Other celebrities who are visiting or performing in the Twin Cities this week include Ben Stein, the Beach Boys and Daughtry.

A spokesman for Chuck Norris, who campaigned on behalf of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, told ABC News the martial arts star, famous for his roundhouse kicks, is not attending this week's convention and has not yet endorsed McCain.

"He wants to see where things are going before he commits himself," said Jeff Duclos, Norris' publicist

Huckabee can be added to the entertainment roster this week, pulling out his guitar for McCain at the Spin Nightclub in Minneapolis Tuesday, where he will perform with his band, Capitol Offense. The former presidential contender often performed for supporters and fans when he was in the '08 running for the Oval Office.

"Hills" star Heidi Montag, whose support forMcCain ricocheted throughout the blogosphere after she was seen lunching with his daughter McCain Blogette Meghann, is also not in attendance in the Twin Cities this week, though according to E! she's still hoping to take her campaign for McCain all the way to Iraq.

In contrast, the Democratic convention in Denver was crowded with celebs, from Kal Penn volunteering on the delegate floor to Susan Sarandon in the stands with Anne Hathaway at Mile High Stadium to the Black Eyed Peas, John Legend and Kanye West serenading the after-parties. There was no question last week that the Democrats embraced "the famous" alongside "the famous for Washington."

The Poker Players' Alliance held a closed press fundraiser in Denver for the Paralyzed Veterans of America and featured the likes of Affleck, Sarah Silverman, Paul Rudd, and Seth Meyers. It will host a similar fundraiser at the Republican convention. But with the star wattage and celebrity connections considerably dimmed this week in St. Paul, they'll have poker pros Victor Ramdin and Greg Raymer on hand for the event.

Daryl Friedman, the vice president for advocacy for the Grammy Foundation, said the star quotient is lower at the RNC because the organization wanted to highlight different talent.

"In Denver, we focused on our artists. We had a rock show at a club with Daughtry and the band Everclear. In Minneapolis, we're focusing on our songwriters, people who have written big hits, but you don't know their names. They're the guys behind the song."

The Grammy foundation hosted a songwriters circle on Tuesday as part of its "Rock the Conventions" program, including Brett James, best recognized for writing Carrie Underwoods' chart-topping hit "Jesus, Take the Wheel," and Greg Laswell, who has penned songs for "Grey's Anatomy" and "Smallville."

Friedman also added that the timing caused fewer stars to sign up for this week's events.

"Labor Day week tends to be a busy week for artists for touring, so it was more convenient to get the artists to tour last week in Denver," Friedman said.

The Impact Film Festival also held events in both Denver and St. Paul, most notably previewing a new film following female members of Congress from both sites of the aisle, and narrated by Annette Bening. While Bening graced Democrats in Denver, the film festival confirms the star was not present in St. Paul.