Kid Rock for Se­nate? It could hap­pen

In the era of Pres­i­dent Trump, the mu­si­cian’s bid for of­fice doesn’t seem like a long shot.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Matt Pearce matt.pearce@la­times.com

Let’s be real about what’s pos­si­ble th­ese days.

A re­al­ity tele­vi­sion star is pres­i­dent. Cal­i­for­nia’s last gov­er­nor was a body­builder turned ac­tion movie star. A pro­fes­sional wrestler was the gov­er­nor of Min­ne­sota, which is cur­rently rep­re­sented in the U.S. Se­nate by a for­mer “Sat­ur­day Night Live” writer and per­former.

Kid Rock for Se­nate? It could hap­pen.

Two weeks ago, the brash Michi­gan mu­si­cian launched a “Kid Rock For Se­nate” web­site dan­gling plans for a 2018 run against Demo­cratic U.S. Sen. Deb­bie Stabenow.

That pre­sented the po­lit­i­cal world with a para­dox: Kid Rock, a foul-mouthed star known for blue-col­lar hits like “Pic­ture” and “Only God Knows Why,” could be launch­ing a pub­lic­ity stunt for his up­com­ing se­ries of con­certs. Or he could be se­ri­ously test­ing the waters for a le­git­i­mate Repub­li­can run. Both could be true at the same time.

Michi­gan po­lit­i­cal ex­perts aren’t laugh­ing Kid Rock off. Not in Pres­i­dent Trump’s Amer­ica.

“You gotta take it se­ri­ously un­til he says, ‘I’m out,’” said Dave Dulio, pro­fes­sor and chair of the po­lit­i­cal science depart­ment at Oak­land Univer­sity in Rochester, Mich. “I don’t have to tell you, it’s for ob­vi­ous rea­sons when we’re in the wake of Don­ald Trump run­ning for pres­i­dent and win­ning.”

Early polling shows Kid Rock is dom­i­nat­ing the Repub­li­can pri­mary field and is com­pet­i­tive with Stabenow.

Kid Rock, 46, whose real name is Robert James Ritchie, leads Stabenow, 48.6% to 46.1%, in a hy­po­thet­i­cal matchup, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey of 1,078 likely vot­ers re­leased Fri­day by the Trafal­gar Group, which pre­dicted Trump’s up­set vic­tory in Michi­gan last Novem­ber.

An­other sur­vey of 800 likely vot­ers — con­ducted by the in­de­pen­dent polling firm Tar­get-In­syght and re­leased ex­clu­sively to The Times — shows Kid Rock lead­ing the next-clos­est can­di­date in the GOP pri­mary field by 17% and trail­ing Stabenow, 50% to 42%.

“I knew he would do well, but I didn’t ex­pect him to have a dou­ble-digit lead over his near­est com­peti­tor” in the pri­mary, said Ed Sar­po­lus, the firm’s founder. Against Stabenow, “he’s com­pet­i­tive at this stage of the game,” Sar­po­lus said. “First time out, 42% isn’t that bad.”

Kid Rock has not filed a state­ment of can­di­dacy with the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion, which is re­quired within 15 days of spend­ing or re­ceiv­ing more than $5,000 in sup­port of a pos­si­ble cam­paign.

In­stead, at mid­night Wed­nes­day, about 15 days af­ter he launched his web­site, he is­sued a state­ment that pro­vided very lit­tle le­gal clar­ity on whether he was run­ning but of­fered some strong clues as to what a Kid Rock cam­paign could look like: pop­ulist, pro­fane, trol­lish and Trump­ish.

“When my name was thrown out there for U.S. Se­nate” — to be clear, Kid Rock was the one who threw his name out there — “I de­cided to launch kidrock­fors­e­n­ate.com,” the state­ment said. “I was be­yond over­whelmed with the re­sponse I re­ceived from com­mu­nity lead­ers, D.C. pun­dits, and blue-col­lar folks that are just sim­ply tired of the ex­treme left and right [bull].”

With­out defini­tively an­nounc­ing a run, he said he now plans to “get peo­ple en­gaged and reg­is­tered to vote while con­tin­u­ing to put out my ideas on ways to help work­ing-class peo­ple in Michi­gan and Amer­ica, all while still call­ing out th­ese jack­ass lawyers who call them­selves politi­cians.”

To that end, he said he’s start­ing a get-out-the-vote non­profit to sign up new vot­ers at his up­com­ing shows. He also promised a news con­fer­ence ad­dress­ing his can­di­dacy some­time in the next six weeks.

And by the way, Kid Rock said, “I ab­so­lutely will use this me­dia cir­cus to sell/pro­mote what­ever I damn well please (many other politi­cians are do­ing the same thing, they just feed you a bunch of [bull] about it).”

It was the clas­sic Trump ma­neu­ver, dis­pens­ing with the pre­tenses of po­lite pol­i­tics: Yes, he is a sales­man; yes, he thrives off the me­dia; no, he’s doesn’t care what you think.

“It’s great for busi­ness,” said Sheila Krumholz, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Re­spon­sive Pol­i­tics, a non­profit that tracks money in pol­i­tics. “He won’t be in just the en­ter­tain­ment sec­tion but on the front pages as he’s head­ing into a se­ries of con­certs.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Kid Rock, Stabenow and Michi­gan’s Demo­cratic Party did not re­spond to mes­sages Fri­day about the star’s po­ten­tial can­di­dacy. Af­ter Kid Rock’s ini­tial rum­blings about a Se­nate run, Stabenow, who cruised to two re­elec­tions af­ter win­ning her seat in 2000, re­sponded gamely.

“I know we both share a love of mu­sic,” she said in a state­ment. “I con­cede he is bet­ter at play­ing the gui­tar, and I’ll keep do­ing what I do best, which is fight­ing for Michi­gan.”

Kid Rock grew up in Ma­comb County, Mich., not ex­actly a child of a blue-col­lar par­ents: They re­cently sold his 5,628-square-foot child­hood home, which had an in­door jacuzzi and a guest house, for $1.295 mil­lion. He at­tended high school nearby.

He hit star­dom in the late 1990s and has main­tained his vis­i­bil­ity, even as his big­gest hits are years be­hind him: In 2015, Rolling Stone called him “Amer­ica’s wildest red-state rocker” for his an­tics and his pol­i­tics, which have in­cluded sup­port of pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates Mitt Rom­ney and Trump and trips to en­ter­tain the troops in the Mid­dle East.

“I am def­i­nitely a Repub­li­can on fis­cal is­sues and the mil­i­tary, but I lean to the mid­dle on so­cial is­sues,” he told the Guardian in 2015. “I am no fan of abor­tion, but it’s not up to a man to tell a woman what to do. As an or­dained min­is­ter I don’t look for­ward to mar­ry­ing gay peo­ple, but I’m not op­posed to it.”

He’s also known for his phi­lan­thropy and his down­home ac­ces­si­bil­ity in Michi­gan, where some lo­cals know him as Bob Ritchie.

“In the past 15 years, I’ve seen him at par­ties, on video shoots and feather bowl­ing at Bath City Bistro in Mount Cle­mens with his now-for­mer wife Pamela An­der­son, and he’s al­ways the same,” Mitch Hotts wrote in the Oak­land Press in 2012. “Kid Rock is an ac­ces­si­ble, downto-earth guy who en­joys talk­ing with peo­ple over a few beers, has loads of amus­ing sto­ries and treats ev­ery­one with re­spect.”

To Repub­li­can state Rep. Peter J. Lu­cido, whose dis­trict in­cludes Kid Rock’s child­hood home, a Kid Rock can­di­dacy might still be un­likely, but it would cer­tainly be no joke.

“I’m putting my toe out there, get­ting my toe a lit­tle wet, and peo­ple are grab­bing hold of this and say­ing we’d love to see him go,” Lu­cido told The Times. “Do I think he’s ac­tu­ally go­ing to walk away from his ca­reer at this point? I’m not will­ing to go the dis­tance on that.”

But with the di­vi­sive­ness in the Capi­tol, “what’s the dif­fer­ence if it’s Kid Rock? It can’t hurt,” Lu­cido said. “We’ve al­ready been par­a­lyzed any­way.

“Maybe his ideas, his fresh new ideas about how gov­ern­ment should be run, and how gov­ern­ment should treat peo­ple, would be a breath of fresh air go­ing into the Se­nate.”

Scott Le­gato Getty Im­ages

KID ROCK with Rep. Paul D. Ryan in 2012. The rocker is polling well in Michi­gan af­ter float­ing a GOP run.

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