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  1. CSM

    CSM Senior Member

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    Bush shuns Hollywood, opts for "wholesome" country acts at convention

    Fri Aug 27, 4:28 AM ET Add Politics - AFP to My Yahoo!

    LOS ANGELES (AFP) - US President George W. Bush (news - web sites) goes into the Republican convention next week mocking Democrat John Kerry (news - web sites)'s glamorous Hollywood support base and pitching instead to America's rural heartland.

    A constellation of stars, including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Whoopi Goldberg, Leonardo DiCaprio and Sean "P.Diddy" Combs made headlines when they came out to support Bush's opponent for the presidency, Senator John Kerry, at last month's Democratic convention.

    And rocker Bruce Springsteen, the Dixie Chicks (news - web sites), Dave Matthews and several other top musicians will launch their national "Vote for Change" concert tour next month aimed at helping defeat Bush in November's polls.

    But as staunchly Democratic Tinseltown marches against Bush's re-election bid, the president is turning to rural America and its "family values" entertainers to bolster his support base.

    "You know, my opponent said the other day you can find the heart and soul of America in Hollywood -- I think you find it right here in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin," Bush told supporters this month, reprising a favourite campaign-stop mantra, to the applause of a crowd of the faithful.

    The line-up of entertainers signed up to appear at the Republican convention in New York contrasts markedly with those who added sparkle and glitz to the Democratic get-together in Boston.

    The low-key list includes a host of gospel and country-music performers including country performers Brooks and Dunn, Lee Ann Womack and Grammy-award winning rockers Third Day.

    Also doing turns on stage at Madison Square Garden will be country singers the Gatlin Brothers and Christian singer Michael W. Smith.

    Other celebrities expected to show up at the four-day event include "10" actress Bo Derek, actor Stephen Baldwin and US lounge-style singer Wayne Newton.

    "There is a huge divide between the 'red' and 'blue' states, and the Republicans are attempting to send a signal to members of their tribe that this is the side of the culture war that they stand on," said University of Southern California communications professor Marty Kaplan.

    "The message is we're anti-gay, pro-gun, anti-choice and we think the Democrats are the spawn of Satan with their Hollywood ideals of wealth, fame and supposed libertine ways."

    Kaplan said that apart from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (news - web sites), the "B-list" entertainment line-up is all the Republicans could muster for the convention as Hollywood mobilises for Kerry.

    But other experts disagreed, saying Bush was making a strong cultural statement with its choice of entertainers that reflect the values of the southern United States and poorer areas in the country.

    "In red (Republican) state America, these performers are just as viable and just as famous as the Ben Afflecks and the Leonardo DiCaprios of this world," said Republican political consultant Dan Schnur.

    Other country performers including bluegrass singer Ricky Skaggs have joined a campaign to bring voters out for Bush and to strike a blow for country and western values.

    "We are certainly not going to let Hollywood choose who we vote for because I don't think they really have a pulse on that," Skaggs said recently.

    The Stetson-wearing, Texas ranch-styled Bush has captured the cultural resentment of the "less well-educated and working class middle America folks," said University of California, Berkeley political scientist Bruce Cain.

    "The country-style entertainment is intended as a cultural signal that has worked very powerfully and effectively with the Christian right, pitting family values against the celebrity culture."

    Religious rural middle America feels alienated by Hollywood's glamorous stars and lifestyles which they feel look down on them, and feels far more comfortable with traditional country-style entertainers who reflect their own more conservative values.

    "The Republicans are very clever about manipulating those cultural symbols. They don't want a lot of Hollywood stars or intellectual eggheads there. They want to contrast with the Democrats," Cain said.

    Facing off the clean-cut Republican entertainers will be a clutch of Democratic stars who plan to appear at protests against the war in Iraq (news - web sites) during the convention, including Lauren Bacall, filmmakers Robert Altman and Spike Lee, and actresses Kathleen Turner and Marisa Tomei.

    Three US opinion surveys show Bush pulling slightly ahead of Kerry, but by a small enough margin that both men are still locked in a statistical dead heat.

    A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows Bush holding a 47-to-45 percent edge over the Massachusetts senator, just ahead of the Republican National Convention that begins on August 30 in New York City.

    Similarly, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll puts Bush in front of Kerry by 50-47 percent among likely voters, but by only one percent point, 48-47, among registered voters.

    Finally a Los Angeles Times poll found Bush edged out Kerry by 49-to-46 percent. In a July poll, Bush trailed Kerry by 46-to-48 percent.

    When independent presidential candidate and consumer-rights advocate Ralph Nader (news - web sites) was added to the picture, Bush's lead over Kerry narrowed to 48-46 percent in the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, and Wall Street Journal/NBC News, and to 47-44 percent in the Los Angeles Times poll.

    All polls had around a three percent margin of error.

    What I find most interesting is the poll data burried at the end of this little article. You can bet that if it showed something different (like Kerry leading) then it would be major headlines.

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