Alec Baldwin a hit for Democrats seeking buzz

Washington (CNN)Live from Des Moines, it’s Alec Baldwin!

The long-time Democratic donor is the featured speaker next month at an Iowa state party dinner that is traditionally a proving ground for future presidential candidates. Over the weekend, Baldwin lent his name to the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial hopeful’s fundraising email.
“It was his idea to start doing more work at the state party level. He wants to start doing more to take an active role and help state parties grow,” said Troy Price, the Iowa Democratic Party chairman. “I think this is just going to be the beginning.”
    Baldwin is leaning into his popular image and focusing his political moves on skewering Trump.
    On Saturday, Baldwin signed a fundraising email for Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia — a contest seen as potentially the most important race of 2017.
    “Take it from the guy who plays him on TV, Donald Trump is no Ralph Northam,” the email said — going on to contrast the two and concluding: “Ralph’s opponent, Ed Gillespie, is more like Trump than I ever thought possible.”
    Earlier this year, Baldwin attended a fundraiser in New Jersey for a super PAC supporting Phil Murphy — the Democratic nominee in the nation’s other big governor’s race this year — that raised $5.1 million, believed to be the largest single fundraising event in the state’s political history.
    Baldwin was connected with Northam’s campaign by officials at the People for the American Way, where he is on the board of directors. Last week, Baldwin also urged his Twitter followers to contribute to state legislative candidates in Virginia endorsed as part of the group’s “Next Up Victory Fund” promoting younger Democrats, calling donating to them the “#1 way to resist Trump in 2017.”
    Baldwin also plans several more so-far-undisclosed speaking engagements around the November 7 release of his parody book about Trump — which features Baldwin in “SNL” character on the cover — his publicist Jillian Taratunio said.
    At an event the progressive group held just before the 2016 election, its president, Michael Keegan, said Baldwin joked about his “SNL” role.
    “He said, ‘I really want Donald Trump to lose so that I don’t have to do this damn imitation anymore,'” Keegan said.
    Baldwin doesn’t have political handlers, Keegan said. “For 30 years, I’ve known him to be a thoughtful political analyst and very committed person through the movement, and (he) could not be more helpful now in electing great progressives in the states to start building a bench,” he added.

      Iconic presidential impressions

    Baldwin forecast his increased involvement in local Democratic politics in a statement in early October announcing his appearance in Iowa.
    “Heading into the 2018 midterm elections and beyond, I have decided to rededicate my efforts to helping the Democratic party win across the country. That effort begins in earnest in Iowa on Monday, November 27,” Baldwin said in that statement. “There will be many more opportunities both before and after, and you can plan on seeing me out there with folks on the ground fighting this most important battle for our future.”
    Baldwin — like most Democrats — has cast the party as badly missing the mark in the 2016 election.
    In early October, Baldwin interviewed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on WNYC. During the interview, Baldwin said voters had rejected a “flabby, tired, unimaginative, out of touch” Democratic Party.
    “I’ll get in trouble if I say that. You said it, right?” Sanders responded.
    Baldwin also retweeted a Twitter user who predicted that Iowa Democrats can expect “tough talk.”
    Republicans are needling Democrats over their reliance on Baldwin’s Hollywood firepower as the party seeks new leaders to replace former President Barack Obama after Hillary Clinton’s loss.
    “Democrats should spend more time finding a legitimate candidate with a positive message, instead of hanging out with a New York City liberal who just plays one on TV,” said Michael Ahrens, a Republican National Committee spokesman.
    Another avenue for Baldwin’s political involvement is the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law — where he’s been involved through the organization’s entire two decades.
    “In the entertainment world he’s unusual in the length and consistency of his commitment on a lot of these things,” said Michael Waldman, the Brennan Center president.
    Baldwin worked with the center’s legal staff on campaign finance reform. He also more than held his own on substance, providing a “leading and thoughtful voice” among top lawyers and scholars in one meeting that still stands out to staffers on a program advisory board at the Brennan Center when that board existed, Waldman said.
    “He’s passionate, funny and very knowledgeable about public issues, from our experience,” Waldman said. “He looks at the Trump phenomenon not just from the perspective of a skilled performer, but also, based on the things he’s said publicly, from the perspective of an appalled citizen.”

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