Famous Enough To Win Office?

Celebrity, Capitol, Politics, Political Office, Running, Celebrities CBS/AP

In the California recall campaign, Arnold Schwarzenegger's run for office is calling attention to a wider issue in American politics. Is being a celebrity alone enough to get a candidate elected?

Even in our celebrity-obsessed culture, Schwarzenegger's campaign is something new.

Until now, the best-known celebrity success stories were like Ronald Reagan or Sonny Bono - years removed from starring roles on the screen; or like Fred Grandy, who played Gopher on "The Love Boat" - not a megastar to begin with; or like Clint Eastwood - holder of a minor office.

But, as CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports, no one prior to Schwarzenegger has ever gone at it as a megastar in their prime.

"This is a new test for celebrity, jumping into the arena when you are still a pop culture icon," says political scientist John Ormand.

Ormand has co-authored a new book "Celebrity Politics." He thinks the parade of celebrities into politics makes perfect sense in a society consumed with the famous.

"The pop culture system has eaten the political system," says Ormand. "It used to be the political system was way ahead and above and something you would honor, but … we treat politics just like part of our entertainment arena."

In our talk show nation, celebrity can be the edge in cutting through name recognition and fund-raising obstacles, but it doesn't guarantee a thing. Just being famous is not always enough.

"The first time, everyone wants to come out and see the Terminator. Second time? Third time? Fourth time? It better be about listening to them (people) … and offering them some solutions," says Ed Rollins, who ran Reagan's 1984 campaign.

"At the end of the day, the messenger is very, very important," says Rollins. "The message is equally important."

But Rollins thinks, if ever being celebrity alone could be enough, the short campaign in California might be the time and place.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger would just be another candidate in a year-long campaign. He will always attract attention," says Rollins. "But the 30th time you go to Fresno and talk to the farm rally, you better know something about the farm problems."

In a six-week campaign, Schwarzenegger won't have to go to Fresno 30 times, but if he doesn't offer enough substance, history suggests it could be he'll be glad he never quit his day job.
  • Jaime Holguin

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