obama (2012 re-election poster)*The Obama campaign is reportedly recruiting a star-studded list of celebrities for the 2012 campaign. Among the names being bandied about? Oprah, Jamie Foxx, George Clooney, Fergie, Grant Hill, Emmit Smith, The Jonas Brothers and Dikembe Mutombo.

No doubt, this sort of roster would make for a blockbuster movie, fantastic concert or entertaining basketball team, but will it help him get elected? Do the endorsements of celebrities really matter, in the long run? The answer is yes, but not really in the way you think. Very few Americans are going to be persuaded to vote one way or the other based upon the endorsement of one celebrity, whether they be conservative or liberal (although the overwhelming majority of celebrity endorsements tend to swing to the left). However, what celebrity endorsements do is tend to “legitimize” the candidate, and give the person a populist edge that may very well boost their profile.  Take Obama’s last campaign, for example; the “Yes We Can” song by Will I. Am probably didn’t swing anyone’s vote one way or another – but the list of stars (ranging from the Black Eyed Peas singer to John Leguizamo to Jessica Alba) certainly helped to increase awareness of Obama for a younger generation, which, in turn, certainly lead to more votes for him.

Of course, there’s a downside to these types of celebrity endorsements. Every time a celebrity opens their mouth to endorse a candidate (particularly for a liberal candidate), it’s an easy snipe for “out of touch” harangues by opponents. There’s also the risk of the celebrity saying something stupid to damage their endorsed candidate’s campaign (just ask Whoopi Goldberg about that).

However, the benefit with the kind of wide-ranging attention and youth appeal that these celebrities can provide is usually worth the risk to these presidential campaigns. Expect to see many of these big, boldface names out in public stumping for Obama as November grows closer; only time will show the impact they have.