Barack Obama, Kim Kardashian, Oprah, Matt Damon, Halle Berry

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So Kim Kardashian has endorsed Barack Obama, and Heidi Montag likes John McCain. Can either woman actually influence an election?
—Clara, Los Angeles

It's possible, say strategists. Hard-partying reality stars may actually hold the future of the free world in their hands. But only under very limited circumstances. Before Heidi could score votes for John McCain, she would first have to prove that she can spell McCain.

"The celebrity endorsement card has to be played very carefully," says Robin Bronk, whose Creative Coalition helps celebrities get involved in the political process—under these conditions:

  • Does the celebrity speak to a demographic that would even consider that candidate? In other words, if Justin Timberlake stumped for, say, Ralph Nader, would the sheer weirdness of the pairing cancel out the entire event like matter meeting antimatter?
  • Does the candidate even have a tiny chance with the kinds of fans that celebrity has? Does the celebrity's fan base even vote? Do people who watch The Hills even know those little voting cubbies aren't tanning booths?
  • Does the celebrity seem sincere when discussing the candidate, or does the star just seem to think that Obama, you know, dresses nice?

"The endorsement has to hit all those marks for it to work," Bronk explains.

OK, let's suppose it does. Could all that gushing about Obama by Halle Berry or Matt Damon or Oprahand now Kardashian—really decide a president?

Doubtful, big thinkers say.

"This is not how campaigns are won," says Dr. Herbert London of the Washington-based Hudson Institute think tank. "Now, if you were to tell me that the entire membership of the Southern Baptist Convention were voting for a certain candidate, that would mean something."

Yeah, but what if they all watch Oprah?

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