US Republicans take case to Hollywood, dig at Obama

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - US Republicans took a dig on Friday at President Barack Obama's cozy relationship with Hollywood, as the party vowed to reach out to liberals after its election defeat last November.

Republican party leader Reince Priebus also invoked the spirit of late British premier Margaret Thatcher, who was famously close to Ronald Reagan, a Republican president who hailed from traditionally Democratic California.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) held a three-day Spring Meeting in hugely pro-Obama Hollywood, a symbolic choice of location as the party seeks to attract liberals who shunned it in the presidential election late last year.

"Welcome to Hollywood! That's not something you hear RNC Chairmen say very often," said Mr Priebus. "It really is great to be here in Hollywood. Or as President Obama would call it, Real America."

The long list of Obama's A-list re-election supporters included George Clooney, Robert De Niro, Samuel L Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Morgan Freeman and Robert Redford.

Republican Mitt Romney's celebrity backers were far fewer in number - the most high-profile, Clint Eastwood, raised eyebrows by talking to an imaginary Obama in an empty chair at the Republican convention in August.

At this week's three-day Hollywood meeting, former vice-president Dick Cheney spoke, but his appearance was not publicised, in what may reflect a desire to downplay the party's hardline conservative wing.

Mr Priebus' keynote speech on the meeting's last day Friday highlighted the party's efforts to reach out beyond its traditional base.

The meeting announced the appointment of a National Asian and Pacific Islander Field Director, as well as a Communications Director for Asian and Pacific Islander Engagement.

"This is about going where we haven't been, listening to voters we haven't heard, competing in regions where we haven't in a long time. You know - like Hollywood," said Mr Priebus.

He also invoked the spirit of Thatcher, who died on Monday aged 87. "Let me make crystal clear... While we have to do things differently, there's one thing that can't and won't change: our principles.

"There are some that would like us to abandon them, but as long as I'm chairman, we'll stay true to them. Some would have us turn into Democrats-lite, but I refuse.

"To paraphrase the great Margaret Thatcher, whom the world has honored this week, 'The Chairman's not for turning.' I'm for changing minds - not changing values."