Clint Eastwood’s endorsement of Mitt Romney is the gift that keeps on giving. On Friday morning last week, the day after Clint addressed the Republican National Convention, he told me, “I’m not an extrovert, but the crowd was so welcoming and warm. I just spoke from my heart.” Almost a week later, it’s still news.
At the age of 82, Eastwood is one of Hollywood’s most beloved figures. Known for his easy-going California attitude, he is respected for his creativity, work ethic, and congeniality. Eastwood is popular with older Americans who remember him playing the man with no name in the Dollars trilogy westerns of the 1960s. But Eastwood is also loved by young voters who remember him in Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino. Few others could garner the national attention that Clint can, and the Republicans were right to put him center stage.
Eastwood’s popularity and Hollywood icon status cuts directly into the Democrats’ messaging that they are the cool kids. While political reporters in Washington may understand that Eastwood has been a Republican activist for years, the typical U.S. voter does not. Eastwood’s prime-time performance told millions of people that it was OK to vote for the Republican. His embrace of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, in such a public way, gives comfort and cover to independents and disgruntled Democrats to abandon President Obama and vote for Romney instead.
The immediate narrative from Washington’s media and political pundits describing Eastwood’s performance as bizarre was typical group-think from people who can hardly be trusted to understand or represent what everyday Americans actually think or value. Their predictable attack also helped give Clint’s endorsement of the Romney-Ryan ticket incredible coverage outside the insular political news pages and broadcast-television programs. When Jay Leno, Entertainment Tonight, and The View tell viewers that Clint Eastwood has endorsed Mitt Romney, it’s a PR coup.
Eastwood’s creative, funny, and heartfelt endorsement was successful because:1. One of the most popular Hollywood actors told us that Obama should be fired.2. The Republican Convention wasn’t all staged and stuffy.3. Clint told millions of people they weren’t wrong to vote for Obama in 2008; Obama failed them.4. The Republicans’ convention was creative, and political pundits aren’t.5. Local TV stations and newspapers around the country were still talking the week after the convention about how Clint Eastwood thinks we should fire Obama.
It is obvious to anyone who hears Eastwood speak that he loves his country and is proud of the free-enterprise spirit that makes us the envy of the world. Clint thought long and hard about the personal consequences he would face in Hollywood for stepping out to embrace Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. But Eastwood also felt strongly that it wasn’t as risky as the Washington types think. Many in Hollywood are wildly disappointed in Obama’s performance and outraged by his attack on capitalism and entrepreneurs. Clint also remembers that Hollywood hasn’t always been a liberal stronghold. In the early days of the studios, the most popular actors were mostly conservatives. Legendary actor Jon Voight, the father of actress and activist Angelina Jolie, says the 1960s and ’70s changed Hollywood from solidly conservative to dependably liberal.
Clint’s performance has also left the Democrats scrambling to find an icon of their own to show up at the Democratic convention in Charlotte. A social-media campaign was launched by liberals after Eastwood’s endorsement urging the popular actress Betty White to publicly endorse the Obama-Biden ticket from the convention this week. Clearly, Clint’s popularity and public endorsement of Romney is a cause for concern for Team Obama. While the president’s Chicago campaign and its media allies continue to disparage Eastwood’s performance in Tampa, the coolest actor in Hollywood has endorsed Mitt Romney for president and the country can’t stop talking about it—you can’t buy that kind of publicity.