period in 2004, President George W. Bush had attended 54 such events, according to CBS News’ Mark Knoller, the unofficial but authoritative keeper of such statistics in the White House press corps.
Last month in Los Angeles, Obama had a star-studded evening — a performance by Grammy-winning rock band Foo Fighters for about 1,000 supporters followed by a more intimate dinner featuring Clooney and actor Jim Belushi.
Friday’s activities in Atlanta are similar. Cee Lo opened for Obama at Tyler Perry Studios – tickets ranged from $500 for general admission to $2,500 and $10,000 for VIP. Then he was off to a $35,800 per person dinner at Perry’s house, where about 40 guests awaited him.
Perry, introducing Obama to a predominantly African-American audience, said seeing the presidential motorcade drive through southwest Atlanta offered ”a glimpse of what destiny looks like.”
To which Obama said: “There’s something about America where somebody from my background can do what I’m doing and someone from Tyler’s background can do what he’s doing.”
Some celebrities play down their onstage personas when traveling with candidates.
Last Monday, Foxworthy, the Southern comedian, skipped the jokes when he campaigned with Romney in Mobile, Ala., telling audiences he had never bothered with politics before.
But it was Romney who riffed on Foxworthy’s TV quiz show, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” Obama is clearly smarter than an elementary school pupil, Romney said, but “this president has done almost everything wrong.”
“You always have to be a little bit careful when you’re dealing with a celebrity,” Lehane said. “First of all, they can be unscripted. Stuff that they can say and typically do that works in their space sometimes doesn’t translate when the political prism is put over it. Sometimes you end up having to disassociate yourself form other aspects of that celebrity’s life.”
Consider Cee Lo, the pop star who performed for 1,000 donors Friday at Tyler Perry Studios. Cee Lo has an expletive-filled hit song titled with an expletive that translates, in the cleaned up version, to “Forget You.” Not exactly Obama’s appeal for hope, or civility or of perseverance.
Asked about any incongruity between performer song and presidential message, White House spokesman Jay Carney said of Obama: “I know he’s a fan. I don’t know about specific songs.”