When controversial musician Kid Rock first announced on Twitter a few weeks back his plans to run for the U.S. Senate, not a few raised their eyebrows, some smirked, and others laughed. Many were not sure if the renegade singer/rapper is serious, or if he should be taken seriously.
The political class met his announcement with predictable contempt. Like how could he even think about it? He with his songs and their offensive content, he with the sex tape scandal, he who was arrested over an embarrassing Waffle House brawl, he with the head-shaking no contest-plea to charges he assaulted a DJ at a Nashville strip club, he with his equally controversial messy divorce with Pamela Anderson; and he with his long list of politically incorrect statements against other celebrities including Beyonce and on issues as same-sex marriage.
Then there are the critics who pointed out that such surprising announcement may be nothing more than a marketing, promotional ploy to boost his recording career which has not seen that much huge hits in the more recent years, compared to his heydays. He’s had only one single reach any of Billboard’s charts in the past four years. They said he needed to boost his bottom line.
Then again, Kid Rock or Robert Ritchie, has already accumulated lots of money from performing, aside from boasting of a truly solid following. He has given huge seven-figure sums to charity. He had the power and option to lower ticket prices to his concerts at $20 just to make them accessible to his working-class fans. In his native southeast Michigan, in spite of his reputation in the music industry, he is known for his earnest civic involvement, giving his help to local businesses and leading major philanthropic events. Even in 2012 when Mitt Romney asked for his endorsement, he had a list of a range of policy questions he prepared for Romney before he gave his nod and collaborated with him on his campaign. These do not serve as guarantees that Kid Rock will really run but these are more than glimpses for his prospective opponents and everyone to know he could not simply be mocked for saying he wanted to bid for a Senate seat.
In fact, there are also those who say his path to the U.S. Senate would be far easier than Trump’s was to the White House. Dennis Lennox, a Republican political consultant in Michigan, says: “Presuming Kid Rock doesn’t get caught in bed with a little boy or beat up a woman between now and August 2018, he’s going to win the nomination if he gets in. I think there’s no question about that. I think he’s the prohibitive favorite if he gets in.”
Trump indeed faced tougher challenges to his bid to get the Republican nomination, having to compete with 16 rivals, more than a dozen of whom were established, well-regarded, well-financed campaigners; Kid Rock, in contrast, would only enter a primary field of three little-known newcomers to partisan politics. Trump was largely targeted by a national network of influential donors and activists who laughed him off at first, only to mount a desperate scramble to thwart and destroy his candidacy once they realized he was a serious threat; Kid Rock will most likely face little such resistance in a state where primaries aren’t preordained by party bosses.
Trump even started his run with still no obvious base or even a blueprint for victory; Kid Rock would launch a campaign already with a given strength-as a favorite-son status that cuts across socioeconomic boundaries and is particularly resonant with the president’s winning coalition of culturally conservative, populist-minded, blue-collar voters.
Kid Rock is also capable of scrambling the playbook and freaking out the Democrats because he could just be that “unsafe” challenger incumbent Debbie Stabenow fears, after easily cruising to reelections in 2006 and 2012.
Some say Kid Rock may not have the time, schedule and logistics to mount a serious campaign especially given that he has a November tour to get preoccupied with. But that’s about it- he is not a conventional candidate that would need a traditional campaign. He is already well-known and could easily command free media to make up the lack of the usual ground game. He also might prove capable of mobilizing Republicans who otherwise don’t turn out to vote in midterm elections.
Saul Anuzis, former chairman of the Michigan GOP says: “The fact that he’s non-traditional is appealing to a lot of people. Obviously, it scares others who want someone more predictable. But if you’re going to beat an entrenched candidate like Debbie Stabenow in a purple state, you need to do something different. He’s well-liked in Michigan. He’s a hometown darling. He’s got deep connections to Detroit. He’s done a lot throughout the state. Anybody who’s writing him off is making a mistake.”
So anybody raising their eyebrows, smirking and worse, laughing, better pause now and rethink their strategies as Kid Rock’s running is no laughing matter.