West News Wire: A recent event organized by Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock targeted at Latino voters crowded a beer garden close to downtown Atlanta.
Some claimed they came to support Warnock, who is running for reelection on November 8 against Republican opponent Herschel Walker. Others, however, came to witness Lin-Manuel Miranda, a well-known Latino who would be speaking on Warnock’s behalf. Miranda is a musician, actor, and filmmaker.
Described as a liberal and planning to vote for Warnock, Camilla Estrada of Atlanta stated, “Who I’m really coming to see is Lin-Manuel Miranda, since I’m really big fan of his.”
Celebrity endorsements in politics are nothing new, and it’s unclear how much influence they have, said Mark Harvey, a management professor at the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas. And some of the biggest fans at Miranda’s appearance Wednesday night, like 7-year-old Sophie Hinsbi, clutching a book from the animated Disney musical “Encanto,” were too young to vote. But that hasn’t stopped politicians from showcasing celebrities, hoping to reach voters who may be on the fence.
Georgia Democrats spent the first week of the state’s 19-day early voting period in frantic activity, as they implore supporters to vote in advance. Warnock and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams each held multiple events a day. Miranda also appeared with Abrams at a restaurant in suburban Lawrenceville on Wednesday, while the Abrams campaign later rolled out a recorded chat with Oprah Winfrey on Thursday night.
Almost 575,000 people had voted in Georgia by the end of Thursday, roughly on pace with the 2020 presidential election when 5 million votes were cast in the state, buoying Democratic hopes that a big turnout might help them.
Celebrities have also gone directly into politics in 2022, including Walker, a University of Georgia football star. When Walker interacts with voters, fans line up to implore him to sign jerseys and even commemorative soda bottles from the Bulldogs’ 1980 national championship. There’s also Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, a doctor who made a fortune as a TV show host.
They’re following the footsteps of others, including former President Donald Trump. Harvey said his research showed Trump was particularly effective at dominating news coverage in 2016, and noted that he had heard a lot about Walker despite living far from Georgia.
“When you get a celebrity in there, you’re probably going to get a whole lot more free coverage,” Harvey said.
In Atlanta, Miranda noted that he had a history of supporting Warnock, mentioning an online fundraiser that the original cast of “Hamilton” held for Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff in 2020, as the two were pushing toward January 2021 runoff victories that gave Democrats control of the Senate. Both he and Warnock argued that the stakes are just as high this year.
“You hate to be the guy who quotes the lyrics from the band, but history has its eyes on you,” Miranda told the crowd, recycling the title of one “Hamilton’s” many popular songs.
Harvey, who wrote a 2017 book about celebrity influence in politics, said there’s strong evidence that celebrities can draw media attention to issues. Less clear is whether a celebrity can spur a disengaged voter to cast a ballot.
“Whether or not it goes from somebody’s brain having read it to ‘Now I care about the race,” that’s something that I think is very difficult to document,” Harvey said.
The professor said research on celebrities who endorse and market products shows such advertising is “not nearly effective as you might think.” Harvey said that it might be reasonable to assume that celebrity endorsements of candidates might be similarly hit-or-miss.
Celebrities still get involved in politics. In Nevada, Democratic candidate for secretary of state Cisco Aguilar released a video on Friday featuring Miranda’s support. This week, “Ant Man” actor Paul Rudd attended a fundraiser held by Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman, and the musician Dave Matthews will perform at a Fetterman rally in Pittsburgh the following week.
Some Republicans‘ preferred celebrities are mixed martial artists, some of whom have openly backed Trump. Kari Lake, a Republican running for governor of Arizona, has been appearing at events dubbed “fight nights” alongside Henry Cejudo, a former champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling.