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Candidates enlist the help of star power

ATLANTA -- No presidential candidate worth his chauffeured SUV has reached his personal zenith without this: celebrities to vouch for them. They are the glam and glitter of political campaigns, sure to turn even jaded political operatives into fawning celeb watchers.

Nobody commands the nexus of stardom and politics more than President Barack Obama, who draws from a broad assortment of personalities -- Hollywood liberals, NBA stars and more.

Friday offered a case in point. Obama raises money in film producer Tyler Perry's sprawling southwest Atlanta studio at a gala event featuring a performance by pop star Cee Lo Green. His just-released campaign biopic is narrated by actor Tom Hanks. On Thursday, George Clooney was at the White House and talked with the president about conditions in Sudan.

Obama, though, has no monopoly on big names.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has campaigned with Jeff Foxworthy, the genial comedian with a repertoire of redneck jokes, convinced rocker-rapper Kid Rock to perform at a campaign rally and won supportive words from Kiss lead singer Gene Simmons.

Newt Gingrich has action film star Chuck Norris in his corner. Rick Santorum has been endorsed by Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine, and Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, stars of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting, have made campaign appearances with him. Rep. Ron Paul has an eclectic list of shout-outs from the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Snoop Dogg, Oliver Stone, Juliette Lewis, Vince Vaughn, Joe Rogan, and Jesse Ventura.

Such proximity to stardom can reap big benefits for a politician. Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant, says stars help alter the typical, antiseptic look of a political event.

"These celebrities, one of the reasons they are celebrities, is they have a unique ability to connect with people," he said. "You're using them as a bridge to connect with their fans and their audiences."

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