Do Celebrities Really Turn Out Voters?

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Every election cycle, presidential candidates are joined by high-profile celebrities along the campaign trail. They rake in cash, but do they get voters to come out to the polls?

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

(Soundbite of song, "Small Town")

Mr. JOHN "COUGAR" MELLENCAMP (Singer): (Singing) Well, I was born in a small town…

SEABROOK: Indiana's favorite musical son, John Mellencamp, has stumped for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the last week.

(Soundbite of song, "Small Town")

Mr. MELLENCAMP: (Singing) Educated in a small town, taught the fear of Jesus in a small town…

SEABROOK: Mellencamp hasn't endorsed either Democrat. The primary is a week from Tuesday. He's doing what celebrity endorsers do best: raise money. Now, stars may bring in the bucks but there's not much evidence that they actually bring in votes. That hasn't stopped them from trying.

We've seen a wave of celebrity endorsements, and when NPR's Marcus Rosenbaum dug into which celeb endorsed which candidate, he discovered a political goldmine.

MARCUS ROSENBAUM: You don't have to look far to find good advice. There seems no doubt that Hillary Clinton has been listening to one supporter - that great crooner, Tony Bennett.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. TONY BENNETT (Singer): (Singing) I ain't down, ain't down, I ain't down, not yet you bet, keep the faith, baby, keep the faith, don't forget…

ROSENBAUM: Now, this race hasn't been totally smooth sailing for Barack Obama either. And as he looks forward to Indiana and North Carolina, he'll probably want to pay attention to supporter Zach Braff, who often waxes philosophical on the TV show "Scrubs." What's life all about, he asks after one particularly hard day.

Mr. ZACH BRAFF (Actor): I don't know. I guess in the end it's about surviving -any way you can.

ROSENBAUM: So much for advice. There's a lot to learn about the candidates themselves just by watching their celebrity supporters in the movies. Take Mary Steenburgen in "Cross Creek," who seems to have nailed Hillary Clinton's appeal to blue-collar men.

Ms. MARY STEENBURGEN (Actor): (as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings) That is just the way I am. I go along quietly for a while and then out of the clear blue sky, I don't know what happens to me. I just pick up a gun, I shoot whatever makes me angry.

ROSENBAUM: Or, for a softer tough edge, take Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men."

(Soundbite of movie, "A Few Good Men")

Mr. JACK NICHOLSON (Actor): (as Colonel Nathan Jessep) There is nothing on this earth sexier, believe me, gentlemen, than a woman that you have to salute in the morning.

ROSENBAUM: For Senator Obama, the first African-American to have a good shot of becoming president, there's Sidney Poitier in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" It's the old race relations versus the new. In this scene Poitier tells his father he loves him:

(Soundbite of movie, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?")

Mr. SIDNEY POITIER (Actor): (as Dr. John Wade Prentice) But you think of yourself as a colored man. I think of myself as a man.

ROSENBAUM: Of course, if the Obama camp wants a good theme song, Mariah Carey has already recorded one.

(Soundbite of song, "There's Got to Be a Way")

Ms. MARIAH CAREY (Singer): (Singing) There's got to be a way to unite this human race, and together we'll bring on a change. Bring on a change…

ROSENBAUM: Okay. You may be wondering, where's John McCain in all of this. Well, it turns out the presumptive Republican nominee hasn't picked up as many celebrities as his Democratic opponents. But some of the ones he's gotten are, well, really big.

(Soundbite of song, "Gonna Fly Now")

ROSENBAUM: It's going to be hard for anybody to beat Rocky Balboa.

(Soundbite of song, "Gonna Fly Now")

ROSENBAUM: Marcus Rosenbaum, NPR News, Washington.

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