Celebrities hit the road to stump for Obama

Edie Falco is fidgeting and looks nervous. The star of “The Sopranos” admits to her N.C. audience she's a product of lower Manhattan who barely understands voters above 14th Street. She talks for just five minutes, and never mentions the names John McCain or George Bush.

It's another decidedly low-key moment for the seemingly endless number of celebrities who back Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

“I've never had any intentions of trying to change anybody's mind,” Falco said. “I have personal reservations about celebrities backing candidates. I've heard a lot of celebrities talking about politics who in my estimation are not qualified to do so. Frankly, I'm embarrassed sometimes that they are representing my ilk, if you will.”

Four years ago, Bruce Springsteen was the face of celebrity in politics, making his first public endorsement of a candidate with a column in The New York Times, before leading a series of swing-state concerts during which he and others urged a vote for Democratic nominee John Kerry.

The pleas from The Boss didn't work.

So while Obama has his share of celebrity concerts and bold-face-name endorsements – Dave Matthews playing a show in his home state of Virginia, an e-mail to NASCAR fans from legendary driver and team owner Junior Johnson – he's using his support among famous faces differently this year.

“They're less focused on being messengers for the campaign and are more plugged in to helping the organization be more effective,” said Bill Carrick, a California Democratic consultant and veteran of past presidential campaigns.

The GOP has tried to bring celebrities into its fold, but the party knows that's not its base. Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin acknowledged as much while speaking at a fundraiser in Greensboro last month.

“We were making a list of who are some celebrity singers who could come out and help us and gosh, for the life of us, the pickings were slim there,” she said. “Who's quasi-conservative out there in the celebrity land?”

Mostly, the answer is country artists such as Hank Williams, Jr. and Gretchen Wilson, who both have performed before rallies for the Republican ticket.