McCain to Attend Lance Armstrong Event

McCain appears with Armstrong as stars make plans to descend on Denver for DNC.

February 12, 2009, 11:43 AM

July 24, 2008 -- When it's comes to star spotting on 2008 presidential trail, what's a Republican presidential nominee to do when he's competing with endorsements of Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson and Bruce Springsteen on the Democratic side?

On Thursday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will add a little star to his galaxy appearing alongside cyclist and fellow cancer survivor Lance Armstrong to share his cancer plan during a presidential town hall meeting at the LIVESTRONG Summit.

While appearing with the seven-time Tour de France winner is a headline-grabber for McCain, Katherine McLane, a spokeswoman for Armstrong's foundation, pushed back on the idea that it would be an endorsement for the Republican presidential candidate.

Though Armstrong would be free to make an endorsement as an individual citizen, his 501c nonprofit foundation is "not partisan" and does not endorse in the presidential election.

In the past, Armstrong himself has steered clear of making political endorsements and strives to make the foundation's work reach members on both sides of the aisle

An invitation to attend the summit was also extended to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who was unable to attend.

"We look forward to hearing what his plans are against cancer at some point before the election," McLane said of Obama, who lost his mother to cancer in 1995.

If the McCain camp seems hungry for celebrity sightings, you can hardly blame them. The Republican candidate's appearance with Armstrong comes as plans for a star-studded Democratic convention begin to take shape.

While the DNC has offered no official list yet, expect to see plenty of left-leaning celebrities. Expected to be in the vicinity: politically minded actor Ben Affleck, director Spike Lee and actor-director Ed Norton, who is filming a documentary on the Illinois senator's rise to the nomination.

Actress Scarlett Johansson, who has bragged about her "heartfelt" affection for the Democratic nominee, has a scheduling conflict and won't be there, her publicist claims.

Musical guests include Kanye West, Wyclef Jean, John Legend, Q-Tip and the Black Eyed Peas. What looms over them all is the larger-than-life speculation of a Bruce Springsteen performance following Obama's Thursday night speech. There's been no announcement from the iconic rocker, who endorsed Obama in April, but fans note a suspiciously empty week in Springsteen's tour schedule the week of the Democratic convention in Denver.

Wyclef will headline a fundraiser for Rock the Vote at the Denver Opera House on Wednesday night of the convention. The non-partisan, 18-year-old organization dedicated to encouraging young voters to "claim their voice in the political process" will partner with Lifetime at the Republican National Convention for a similar event, though there is no list of performers available at this time.

Spokeswoman Chrissy Faessen says Rock the Vote will "be bringing the artists together at the convention to help influence and use them and their influences among young people to engage them in the political process."

Last month, Rock the Vote launched its 2008 efforts with a public service ad featuring Christina Aguilera singing "America the Beautiful" while holding her son, swaddled in an American flag. The scene was a takeoff of the ad Madonna filmed for Rock the Vote in 1992, draped in red, white and blue.

The Republicans will draw their fair share of stars to the Twin Cities as well, though the list -- if the appearances and fundraising spreadsheets of primary season are any indication -- doesn't offer the same star wattage.

President Bush recommended sending one celebrity out of the GOP orbit when he welcomed the Super Bowl-winning New York Giants to the White House.

"We're going to send Jessica Simpson to the Democrat National Convention," Bush joked. Simpson was widely blamed for boyfriend Tony Romo's losing playoff performance against the Giants.

The true might of star power reveals itself in the celebrity-led media circus and in the almighty fundraising dollar, two political muscles that flexed to capacity during hotly contested battles for both party nominations.

Stars lined up for Obama last month in Los Angeles at a fundraiser estimated to have raised more than $5 million for the Democratic presidential candidate and Democratic National Committee.

Singer Seal serenaded the 900 guests who attended, which included 200 seats for a VIP dinner that cost $28,500 per couple. The remaining 700 paid up to $2,850 to attend.

With the Tinseltown money tree came stars like, Samuel Jackson, Dennis Quaid, Don Cheadle, Zooey Deschanel and J.J. Abrams.

Former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's Hollywood supporters are said to be slowly lining up behind Obama as well. Rob Reiner had visited Obama's Chicago headquarters since the primary battle ended and director Steven Spielberg is said to be hosting a fundraiser for Obama come fall.

The liberal lean of Hollywood's glittering class is no political secret, but come convention time, celebrities could find themselves playing the role of fans as politicians take center stage.

When it comes to Obama and the Hollywood elite, says Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse's Center for Pop Culture, "so many celebrities want to get the magic dust from Obama to fall upon them."

Like many, Thompson doesn't put a lot of faith in the celebrity endorsement, describing the cocktail of politics and entertainment as something that doesn't go far in the political realm and could hurt the endorser more than the endorsee.

Still, he says, there is "an energy attached to Barack Obama...and I think there are a lot of people who would like to plug in."

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