Democrats, Celebs, Media-types In; Republicans, Lobbyists, “Little People” Out
Who will be in and who will be left out of this year’s dinner? A few general categories to keep an eye on. For Obamites stuck in Chicago for two years, this will be the first night that many of them mix and mingle with the press at a big event.
Democrats — with the party back in power all over Washington, journalists will be looking to dole out favors to their sources from Capitol Hill to the White House and all Cabinet agencies.
Media personalities — the New York-to-Washington shuttle should be even more crowded than usual, even with media figures who only have glancing connections to political coverage. Internal lobbying will be fierce and it could prove more difficult to turn away star journalists demanding a seat, especially for the television networks.
Celebrities — a few names have begun leaking out including Jon Bon Jovi, but it’s safe to assume there will be more interest from high-end celebrities wanting to attend this year than in the past. Obama has replaced Clinton as the favorite among celebrity activists and it could be an attractive opportunity to be part of the new wave in Washington. (Unconfirmed rumor: U.S. Airways hero pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger may be in attendance.)
Republicans — squeezed out of power in a way they haven’t been since the early 1990s, the GOP will likely have a much smaller presence this year. Many of the party’s most popular and influential leaders reside outside of Washington (Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, for example), and attending such an insider event won’t do anything to help them with their constituencies as they look toward the 2010 midterm elections and beyond. But the lure of cameras and making media friends may bring them in.
Lobbyists — changing the way Washington works, a key Obama campaign pledge, means at least toning down the perception that the city is overrun with lobbyists and other favor-seekers. This dinner is not traditionally their venue anyway, but some of the high-powered movers and shakers from the private sector do attend. That might not be the case this year for many.
The Little People — with a limited number of seats available, there aren’t going to be many “filler spaces” up for grabs. It’s not unusual for some lucky up-and-coming young journos to be tapped at the last moment to fill a late cancellation (nobody wants to have an empty spot at their table). But high demand and interest in this year’s event will probably lead to overbooking, not frantic searches for replacement bodies.