Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pauses during a campaign… (Mary Altaffer / Associated…)
George Clooney wasn't there.
Neither were many other (any other?) A-list stars, but a Mitt Romney fundraiser at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Thursday night put the lie to the notion that everybody in Hollywood is supporting President Obama's reelection bid.
At least 425 people in the liberal heart of filmdom are apparently in Romney's camp. "There are many, many Romney backers in our community, and we’ll just have to see what happens going toward the election," said one of them, actor Jon Voight, who was an A-lister back in the day.
Also in attendance: Scott Baio, of "Happy Days" fame, and Jane Romney, of Romney family fame (the candidate's sister). Tickets to the event ranged from $2,500 to $50,000.
Voight has long been one of Hollywood's most prominent conservatives and Obama antagonists. He wrote a scathing open letter to the president in 2010, accusing him of having betrayed Israel and "promoted anti-Semitism throughout the world."
In an interview at the fundraiser, he said: "There’s a big difference between these two candidates, obviously. The present president would like to have everybody dependent on the government and Gov. Romney wants to restore individual freedoms so people can pursue their dreams to success. We are losing the American dream, really, because of the attack on the American dream. There's quite a lot at stake here."
In his remarks, Romney noted the fish-out-of-water aspect of the event, saying, "There’s people I know who have gone against the tide to support me in this effort, getting on my bandwagon very early, even some Hollywood folks."
He also mentioned a recent Pennsylvania rally at which he appeared with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is frequently mentioned as a vice presidential possibility. In describing Rubio's comments, Romney offered a sort of defining statement about Republican philosophy.
"I was with Marco Rubio at a rally," Romney said. "He said something that really struck me and sticks with me. He said when he was a boy and they were poor, living around Miami, he said there were other people in the community who had fabulous homes and fancy cars, and he said, 'You know, I never once heard my parents say, "How come those people won't give us some of what they have?" Instead they said, "Isn't it great to live in a country where if you work hard and get an education and take some risks, and if you’re lucky, you too can have that kind of success."' Ours is not the party of the rich, ours is the party of the people who want to get rich.”
He introduced his wife, Ann, who joked about competing with her husband on the fundraising circuit.
"I had fun today," she said. "You know, it was an interesting time. I actually had a fundraising luncheon at noon, and so did Mitt in Los Angeles. So we're now competing against each other in the same market. I don’t think that's ever happened before. But it's been a great day and we love this city and the people in it, and know that you're going to be a part of a really important thing that's going to happen in this country."
The evening fundraiser capped a long day for Romney in California, including a stealth visit to the Fremont headquarters of Solyndra, the failed solar energy company that received $535 million in federal loan guarantees.
During that stop, Romney conducted an interview with CBS News, portions of which were aired Friday morning. In it, Romney hit Obama for his lack of experience before taking office -- Obama had been a first-term U.S. senator -- and said the economy has suffered as a result.
"Having never had any experience in his life in leadership has made it difficult for him to learn how to lead on the job," the former Massachusetts governor said. "What's happened in this country is that the people who create jobs have pulled back in part because of the uncertainty created by the Obama policies."
It was not the first time -- and surely won't be the last -- that Romney has criticized Obama for what he has called a lack of experience "in the real economy." It echoes attacks by Sen. John McCain in his campaign against Obama in 2008.
In a cutting reference to Solyndra, Romney said Obama thinks that the way to create jobs "is to have government make investments and to have the government choose winners and losers. Or in his case, choose losers."
Asked how that differed from his work at Bain Capital, the Boston-based private equity firm whose investments included some notable successes but also some sizable failures, Romney said: "I think being in the business world as I was and having success and failures teaches you a great deal about how business works, why companies decide to locate in one place or another, why they decide to hire people, why they decide to let people go, why it is that -- that incomes rise and benefits improve. And when they go the other direction, why that occurs. That kind of fundamental understanding I think the president is lacking."
In portions of the interview aired Thursday, Romney also said he gave Obama a grade of "F" overall, although he acknowledged one success: the successful military mission that killed Osama bin Laden.