Anna Wintour has always been an Obama supporter (she donated $10K to Democratic White House Victory Fund in 2008) but to say she's ramped up her support for Obama's 2012 reelection campaign would be an understatement.
She's one of Obama's top tier bundlers, which means she's raised over $500,000 for the reelection campaign. She put together Runway to Win, a project in which she recruited big name designers (many of whom Michelle Obama has worn) to create items to be sold on the campaign website. Wintour will head to Chicago on June 12 for a "Runway to Win" fundraiser (she hosted one in NYC back in February, too).
And, in perhaps her most visible move in support of Obama, last week Wintour was the subject of a campaign video announcing a contest for potential donors to win the chance to dine with her, Sarah Jessica Parker, and the First Couple at a June 14 fundraiser. A few days later, one of those chatty, casual, Obama emails landed in our inboxes with Anna Wintour's name as the sender. "I don't do this sort of thing often -- get involved with politics, that is," the email reads. "But I'm doing everything I can to support President Obama this summer and fall because it's important that we all do. Nights in New York like this one are a happy side benefit."
THE BACKLASH That video was met with immediate backlash. It dropped on "Jobs Day," when the latest dismal unemployment figures were released, and Republicans immediately seized on what the New York Times described as the not "ideal" timing to produce a counter video. "Meanwhile" (the title of the video) runs the recently released unemployment stats underneath Wintour's campaign video for Obama. The Atlantic Wire praised it for being a "pretty good skewering of a very skewerable person."
And from there the Republican backlash continued. John Podhoretz at the New York Post slammed Wintour's involvement with the campaign in a piece titled, "Team O Turns Tone Deaf." Glenn Beck obviously got in on the Wintour/Obama bashing, calling the Obama campaign "out of touch" and Wintour "the devil" (he also thinks she's American and had fun mocking her accent).
Sarah Wildman, a fellow at Johns Hopkins' International Reporting Project who covers US politics for PBS and the BBC, calls the video a "tactical error." "I think unfortunately for the Obama campaign this came at the worst moment," she told us. "The day the unemployment numbers are released and to use this women who is a face of the wealthiest of the wealthy in a lot of respects...her world is so rarified...it's just a tactical error."
THE BACKLASH TO THE BACKLASH: HYPOCRISY HIGHLIGHTED
The Obama campaign is often criticized for cozying up to celebs. "Since 2008, Obama's opponents have attacked him with the celebrity label, saying that he is almost too Hollywood for his own good," says Jo Piazza, senior editor at Current TV. "It's an argument that the President is too elitist." Buzzfeed Politics' Zeke Miller agrees that Wintour is just the latest celebrity the campaign is employing (George Clooney came before her, Sarah Jessica Parker followed), and says the Republican attack was just "easy."
Wintour certainly inspires a lot of vitriol--most of which can be chalked up to her "Nuclear Wintour" rep and The Devil Wears Prada. But the criticisms Wintour is enduring at the hands of the Republicans--that she's too elitist, too 1%, inaccessible--can just as easily be lobbed back at the Romneys.
"The Romneys live in a multi-multi million dollar world and [Romney's] wife does this incredibly expensive sport, Dressage, and owns countless Cadillacs" Wildman says. "They certainly live in a world that is as, if not more, rarified as Anna Wintour so it's kind of rich, play on words intended, for them to mock Obama for this."
And don't forget Mitt Romney has his own fancy celebrity friends.
"[Obama] isn't alone in rubbing elbows with the elite," adds Piazza. "Let's not forget that Romney still will not disavow Donald Trump as a campaign surrogate, and this is the man who named a vodka after himself."
WHY ANNA WINTOUR?
Finally, there's got be a reason the Obama campaign is using Anna Wintour--beyond her deep pockets. She's a celebrity in a way, sure, but not of the silver screen. She doesn't have that Clooney million dollar smile.
According to Piazza, "this race remains a fight for women's votes," and Wintour is certainly an attempt to appeal to women. She rules the American fashion industry and, Piazza notes, "Fashion is an enormously appealing thing to all corners of the country...it is a unifier." Just look at the success of all those designer collaboration for mass retailers like Target, Macys, and H&M. And all those reality TV shows about fashion. Fashion is something lots of America cares about and are interested in--and if Anna Wintour can represent that kind of accessible fashion, the Obama campaign could still be onto something, haters be damned.
"While the Republican party continues to alienate women through their attack on their lady parts, the Democrats don't necessarily have the lady vote in the bag," says Piazza. "Fashion could be a way to appeal to some still undecided voters with a XX chromosome." And who better than Anna Wintour to serve as the face of fashion?