Will Box Office Affect The Ballot Box?

These days, it's hard to tell where politics ends and show business begins ... at least in the opinion of our Contributor Mo Rocca:
It's that time of the political calendar: Hollywood's biggest stars are beginning to endorse presidential candidates.

This week Oprah named Barack Obama her favorite candidate, and Barbra Streisand declared herself one of the "people … people who love Hillary…"

Not surprisingly most of Hollywood's celebrities are backing Democrats.

Obama's got two-thirds of Dreamworks, and at least two-elevenths of "Oceans Eleven." Hillary has Rob Reiner and Magic Johnson.

On the GOP side, Mike Huckabee has Chuck Norris in his corner. Melissa Gilbert is backing Rudy Giuliani. And the Osmonds are swooning for Mitt Romney.

[Generally, Republican celebrities prefer to actually run for office.]

Endorsements can bring press attention - how much depends on several factors: There's box office mojo ...and populist appeal.

The intensity of support matters, too: Chuck Norris could handle all of his opponents' celebrity endorsers single-handedly.

If the celebrities' characters did the endorsing, that might be more effective: Melissa Gilbert's "Half-Pint" from "Little House on the Prairie" backing Giuliani humanizes the former Mayor.

District Attorney Arthur Branch stumping for Fred Thompson might give that campaign a lift. Of course, this can cut both ways: Obama appreciates Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker's support though he probably wouldn't welcome an endorsement from Idi Amin.

Ultimately, the endorsements probably mean little at the ballot box. Remember 2004? Madonna for Wesley Clark, and the parade of celebs (plus Al Gore) for Howard Dean? Even someone with the cultural impact of Oprah - this woman gets people to READ BOOKS! - is still unlikely to change many minds on a decision so important.

Now, if she gave every caucus voter a Pontiac, that's a different story…