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Hollywood split as Democrats swop glitzy fund-raisers for rallies

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LOS ANGELES: From Tom Hanks to Scarlett Johansson, Hollywood A-listers determined to see President Donald Trump defeated are badly split over the best Democratic candidate to back with their silver-screen dollars.

Donation records show Hanks has cut a cheque for former vice-president Joe Biden, while Johansson has donated to progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Cheers star Ted Danson gave the maximum US$2,800 (S$3,900) to Ms Warren but his wife, actress Mary Steenburgen, also backed Mr Biden.

George Takei of Star Trek fame simply could not make his mind up. He donated to both Mr Biden and former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg.

According to Los Angeles-based Democratic strategist Bill Carrick, these split loyalties and multiple donations would be unusual any other year but have been common in the 2020 race.

"Hollywood has always been a very important source of campaign fund-raising for presidential candidates," he said.

"This time has been a bit different."

This is partly due to the large field of potential nominees, with many donors giving to as many as three candidates, Mr Carrick said.

For Mr Steven Maviglio, a Democratic strategist in California's state capital Sacramento, the stars "are as dazed and confused about who is the best one to beat Trump as everyone else".

This year's confusion stands in stark contrast to 2016, when Mrs Hillary Clinton was Tinseltown's clear favourite.

"Hillary was out here in Hollywood all the time," said Mr Maviglio. "I don't think anybody has measured up to what Hillary did last time around here."

In fact, some leading Democratic candidates have largely skipped Hollywood's glitzy private fund-raiser circuit.

Front runner Bernie Sanders' message has attracted celebrities including Susan Sarandon - and Dick Van Dyke, Sarah Silverman and Public Enemy will feature at his Los Angeles rally. Ms Warren has drawn support from singer John Legend.

But both Sanders and Warren have blasted the closed-door, uber-wealthy soirees typical of Hollywood campaigns, in favour of pursuing vast numbers of small, online donations.

They have not "invested the time in Hollywood because they don't have the fund-raising goals in mind," said Mr Carrick. - AFP