Americans are no stranger to offensive slurs, provocative statements and hard-partying candidates in public office since the most recent presidential elections. While DC has its hands full with the curious case of Scaramucci, downtown Detroit is raising its glass to another case of political mayhem: Senator Kid Rock.
Robert James Ritchie, commonly known as Kid Rock, announced in a tweet three weeks ago that he is considering a campaign for U.S. Senate in Michigan. On the surface, the 46-year-old musician’s hypothetical run against Democratic incumbent and established political figure, Debbie Stabenow seems a foolish idea. The latter is running for her fourth term, shows a clear lead in recent polls, including ours. He clearly has a long shot, but surprisingly, not an impossible shot.
On a Lucid poll conducted this week, we asked 552 likely Michigan voters whom they will vote for in the upcoming Senate race. Kid Rock comes as a close second to Stabenow and is a strong frontrunner among Republican candidates – businesswoman Lena Epstein, businessman John James and retired Supreme Court Justice Bob Young. The margin is wide – a 10% lead compared to other Republican candidates – and trailing him at 42-22% against Stabenow.
Kid Rock’s credibility in keeping an audience in thrall comes from his rap and hip-hop releases in the ’90s. His extravagant lifestyle has kept him in the news for alcohol-related arrests, assault and wildlife hunting. And while Trump has demonstrated this baggage is not necessarily fatal, Kid Rock is already making headway in public opinion through radical simplicity of tax and law codes. If there is any lesson learnt from Trump’s campaign is that simple messages, delivered frequently and with repeated enthusiasm can sway public opinion against fact-checking and policy monologues. Our polls show just over 1/2 of Kid Rock’s supporters strongly approve of President Trump, a bulk of which are urban millennials. Republican support in Michigan suburbs have been strong before and after Trump’s campaign, where incidentally Kid Rock is native. His upbringing bodes well with the radical libertarianism of the white and middle-class Michigan voters – the same group that cost Hillary a crucial win in the recent election.
In reality, Kid Rock’s political heresy is hardly new. He was one of Trump’s most prominent celebrity supporters during the presidential elections and his official merchandise store sold Trump-themed t-shirts during the campaign. He reportedly met the president in April this year with Ted Nugent and Sarah Palin. Unlike Trump though, his political stronghold is rooted deeply in the GOP, dating back to 2012 when he endorsed presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who then used Born Free as his campaign theme song.
Kid Rock’s demeanor may not be the most suited for the U.S. Senate, yet his potential run in Michigan Senate Race is being seriously considered among Republicans everywhere. Ed Rogers argues why the musician’s time has come, placing him as a non-traditional GOP candidate against Stabenow and “just what Republicans need to take back Michigan”. This bodes well with the likely Michigan voters in our poll: 89.1% of Kid Rock’s supporters have said their ideal political candidate is “anti-establishment” and does not follow “same old politics”. About 33% of Rock’s supporters are aged between 29 and 36 and have voted in the recent presidential elections. With significant parallels in lifestyle, campaign strategy and voter base between Donald Trump and Kid Rock, it is worth noting that the latter’s path to U.S. Senate is easier with a strong advocate in the White House.
Kid Rock’s hypothetical race to the U.S. Senate was met with typical sneers and trolling from liberals. Yet not too long ago, it is the same dismissiveness that motivated Trump’s 2016 campaign. Like Trump, he is a businessman in his own right. Detroit-bred and father to a biracial son, he (musically) appeals to both rural partiers and snarky urbanites. While polls show his appeal to a white, male demographic, he could easily catch the attention of African-American or Latino voters with messages of inclusion through his music and businesses. We asked the same likely Michigan voters about their preferred music genre to explore the relationship between pop culture and politics. To our surprise, genre is a predictor of voting preferences: 43.01% of Kid Rock’s supporters are country music fans. While these fans are mostly Republicans, some associate themselves with Democrats, indicating the significance of pop culture in bonding increasingly polarized Americans.
Critics would argue how these new relationships between pop culture and politics raise concerns on the direction of leadership in public office. More importantly how Kid Rock’s hypothetical race to Michigan’s Senate seat indicates the diminishing seriousness of our politics at a time when we desperately need seriousness. There is no guarantee whether Kid Rock will run for the Senate seat, but his potential candidacy will be a nightmare for the left and laughable win for the right. Yet, with over 92 million millennials in the U.S. whose preferences are widely different from any generation in history and who consume news primarily through the Internet, traditional and ‘scientific’ campaign strategies may no longer be appeasing. Loyalists like Stabenow may be in the lead now, but can just as easily fall behind Kid Rock’s pop culture manifesto. It is perhaps too early to say anything, especially with a significant proportion of undecided voters. Needless to say, Kid Rock can only come to a striking distance when he can offer more than country, comedy and racial slurs to majority Michigan voters, and that may not be anytime soon.
The Michigan Senate Race poll was conducted through Lucid’s exchange platform between July 31 to August 3, 2017 with 552 likely Michigan voters, age 18 and older in the state of Michigan, United States, in English. The surveys were conducted using Lucid’s online exchange platform, Fulcrum. All respondents volunteered to participate in the survey through the online exchange, Final sample is weighted for age, education, gender and race based on US Census information. The margin of error at 95% confidence interval is +/- 3.4%.