Republicans are once again seeking to portray President Obama as a “celebrity” — an out-of-touch leader who hobnobs with actress Eva Longoria, considers Oprah a pal and “slow-jams” with comedian Jimmy Fallon before an adoring crowd.
Linking Obama to Tinseltown is a strategy that failed to work in 2008, when Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainKelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Voting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities Sinema, Manchin curb Biden's agenda MORE’s (R-Ariz.) campaign aimed to compare Obama to pop singer Britney Spears and reality TV star Paris Hilton.
But three and a half years into the Obama administration, Republicans believe they now have enough material to work with to make their point.
In the last few weeks, a string of Republican advertisements have tried to puncture Obama’s likability.
First came a Republican National Committee ad that mocked Obama for appearing on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” where the host referred to him as “Preezy of the United Steezy.”
Then American Crossroads, the GOP super-PAC, released a spot titled “Cool” that took aim at the persona of a beer-drinking, Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenLobbying world Ilhan Omar to Biden: 'Deliver on your promise to cancel student debt' Deportations of Haitians spark concerns over environmental refugees MORE-singing, fly-swatting president.
“After four years of a celebrity president, is your life any better?” the ad asks, after ticking off a slew of statistics aimed at the 20-something set.
Republicans say the spot is effective because it makes a larger point that Romney is a serious candidate who will focus on the economy and spend less time making the late-night talk-show circuit.
“Romney shouldn’t try and compete for the cool vote,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. “He should just continue to emphasize how he’d help the economy.”
Other Republicans say the strategy also chips away at Obama’s cool factor, something that appealed to young voters in 2008 but appears to be waning, according to recent polls.
“It’s a good way to counter this likability advantage he has against Romney,” said Matt Mackowiak, a GOP consultant. “Here’s someone who is living it up, playing lots of golf, yukking it up with celebrities and late-night comics.
“The White House has been a little too cute in putting him out there,” Mackowiak said. “They’ve made it so we can’t get away from him. So it’s definitely a vulnerability for the Obama campaign.”
The emerging Republican strategy comes on the heels of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, where the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Zooey Deschanel and scores of other Hollywood A-listers flocked to hear Obama speak.
During the dinner, a string of boldfaced names including Martha Stewart and actors George Clooney and Kevin Spacey all approached the dais where Obama was seated to wave. Before the dinner began, Obama mingled with actors Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks at a private reception, a source tells The Hill.
In a couple of weeks, Obama will attend a fundraiser at Clooney’s home in Los Angeles, where the actor told The Wall Street Journal he expects to raise around $10 million for the president’s campaign.
Some Democrats say labeling Obama a celebrity is a failed strategy that didn’t work in 2008 and won’t work now.
“We’ve seen this movie before,” said Jen Psaki, a former administration official who served on the 2008 campaign. “This is nothing more than a distraction from having a conversation about this issues.
“It failed four years ago because it said nothing about what McCain stood for,” Pskai said. “And the same thing is true today.”
Some Republicans — including those who worked on McCain’s president bid — aren’t convinced it’ll work now either.
“We tried it, and you remember how that went,” one former senior McCain aide said. “It was a catchy ad but I don’t think it moved the numbers at all.
The aide said it’s a mistake for the Romney campaign to try that tack again.
“I think they don’t have a firm plan yet and they’re trying anything to see what sticks,” the former McCain aide said. “Unfortunately, this won’t. We found out the hard way.”
But some Republicans maintain that the strategy — and the slew of ads — will be more effective in 2012.
“It’s a totally different election this time around,” said Kirsten Kukowski, press secretary for the RNC. “Our main point is that the economy is still not great and most of the promises that he made in 2008 haven’t come true.”
Kukowski said the RNC will continue to seize on Obama’s Hollywood moments.
“The more he goes out there and does that, the more he’s making our point for us,” Kukowski said.