WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Rep. Harold Ford Jr., has some advice for his friend Sen. Barack Obama: Don't be afraid to take your presidential campaign anywhere in this country, no matter what the racial politics.
Ford lost a close bid last fall to become the first black senator from a Southern state since Reconstruction. Some blamed the loss in Tennessee on racial politics, but Ford said Thursday other factors, including a rival who spent his own money, contributed to his defeat.
He said Obama, son of a white mother and an African father, can't control how his race will affect his candidacy.
"As long as he works hard, is honest ... and is not afraid to take his message anywhere in the country, he'll do fine," Ford said. "He can't try to predict what other people may think or may do. All he can do is run the campaign that he's capable of running.
"Do I think the fact that he's black will be a factor in his campaign? Probably," Ford said. "It would be a factor if two white guys were running. People talk about race regardless, so race is an issue that we deal with in America. I don't think that will be a central part of his campaign at all."
Ford spoke to reporters over lunch on his first day as chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Ford is replacing former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who stepped down to run for president.
Ford said he plans to remain neutral in the 2008 race because of his new position, but he is particularly close to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Obama.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hollywood moguls Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen are throwing a fundraiser for Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign next month.
Some 700 invitations to the $2,300-per-head event at the Beverly Hilton Hotel went out this week, Andy Spahn, political adviser to Katzenberg and Spielberg, said Thursday. Katzenberg, Spielberg and Geffen are the founders of the DreamWorks movie studio.
Katzenberg has endorsed Obama, but Spielberg, a longtime supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, hasn't made up his mind. Geffen also has not publicly endorsed a candidate.
"There are many people in this community who will support multiple candidates, but this certainly is evidence off the serious credibility and strength of Obama's candidacy," said Spahn, rejecting the suggestion the fundraiser was a slight to Clinton.
The Feb. 20 event will be followed by a private dinner at Geffen's house for donors who have committed to raising $46,000.
As president, Bill Clinton had a famously affectionate relationship with Hollywood, and the goodwill -- and deep pockets -- transferred to Sen. Clinton. Celebrities such as Barbra Streisand, Jennifer Lopez and Chris Rock donated to her Senate races in 2000 and 2006.
Clinton spokesman Phil Singer didn't comment directly on the Obama event.
"The response to Senator Clinton's announcement from throughout the country has been extraordinary," he said by e-mail. "We're confident we're going to raise the resources we need to mount a winning and effective campaign."
Associated Press Writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.
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