Steven Spielberg endorses Hillary Clinton

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg, a prominent figure in Hollywood’s liberal establishment, on Wednesday endorsed U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.

Steven Spielberg gestures backstage at the 64th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 15, 2007. Spielberg, an influential member of Hollywood elite, on Wednesday endorsed New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake

“I’ve taken the time to familiarize myself with the impressive field of Democratic candidates and am convinced that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate to lead us from her first day in the White House,” he said in a statement.

Spielberg, a founding partner of DreamWorks Studio and director of films like “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List,” had waited months to endorse a candidate as Democratic hopefuls jousted for Hollywood’s financial backing.

The move reflects Clinton’s growing support among show business heavyweights following a period in which many donors had given money to several candidates, including Clinton of New York, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

“My sense is that there continues to be three very strong talented Democratic front-runners, and there’s a long way to go,” said Andy Spahn, Spielberg’s political adviser.

Hollywood’s fascination with newcomer Obama has added tension to the race in a town with long and deep ties with Hillary and her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

In February billionaire mogul David Geffen came out strongly in support of Obama with a sharply worded attack on Clinton in a New York Times column, days after hosting an Obama fundraiser that netted more than $1 million.

Spielberg himself co-sponsored that Obama fundraiser with his two founding DreamWorks partners, Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

But in recent weeks, he and television mogul Haim Saban co-hosted a star-studded reception for Clinton at the home of News Corp. President Peter Chernin.

Clinton raised $1.1 million that day from the Chernin fundraiser and another celebrity-filled event.

“I think it’s not a big surprise that Steven did this. People have known for a while that he was close to her. I do feel that Hollywood often reflects the country and if you look at the polls and the response to the debates, Hillary has some good momentum,” said Donna Bojarsky, Hollywood political consultant to stars like actor Richard Dreyfuss.

All three front-runners are visiting Hollywood this month to raise money. Obama was in town on Monday and Tuesday, while Edwards and Clinton are scheduled to return later this month.

“We’re very pleased with our level of grass-roots support in California and all over the country,” Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, told Reuters.