Senator Rock? Hmm … could be. I Kid you not.
Political buffs are salivating over the possibility that Kid Rock will put his music career on hold next year for a run against Debbie Stabenow, one of the two Democrats representing Michigan in the Senate. The rock star has been happily stoking the grassroots fire by setting up a new website, www.kidrockforsenate.com.
Several polls have put Rock ahead of Stabenow, a die-hard liberal, although polls are meaningless 15 months before the election. Recent stories have downplayed his chances especially since he’ll probably have to use his real name, Robert Ritchie, on the ballot.
That shouldn’t be an issue — millions of campaign dollars will tip off the least informed voter that Ritchie is really Rock. If things get truly desperate, there’s nothing to stop him from legally changing his name to his stage handle.
What might stop the Rock juggernaut is a serious effort by a mainstream Republican polico. Several GOP veterans have hinted at taking a stab at Stabenow’s seat, and Bob Young, former chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court has declared his candidacy.
By most standards, Young would be a formidable candidate. A smart, rock-ribbed black conservative, he’s beloved by party regulars. But he’s 65 (Rock is 45), which is an advanced age to begin a new career. And despite his years of outstanding service on the state’s highest court, his name is about as recognizable as the local register of deeds. His best shot in the general election could be tricking people into thinking he’s Robert Young of “Father Knows Best” and “Marcus Welby” fame.
A potential problem for Rock is we have no idea where he stands on today’s issues, and probably neither does he. We know he’s vaguely conservative and isn’t afraid to associate with Republicans, which makes him a rarity among showbiz types. The only clue to his thoughts on his candidacy at his website is “The democrats (sic) are ‘shattin’ in their pantaloons’ right now… and rightfully so!”
One thing to keep in mind: Michigan politics is the strangest kettle of fish ever dragged out of the Great Lakes. I had an e-mail argument with a couple of National Review writers years ago after they insisted on calling on calling Michigan a Blue state. A state with a Republican governor (John Engler), Republican Legislature and Republican-dominated Supreme Court is hardly Blue, I contended. They replied that the state hadn’t voted for a GOP presidential nominee since Bush 41 in 1988. No consensus was reached.
Michigan has had plenty of recent Republican governors — George Romney and William Milliken (1963-83), Engler (1991-2003) and Rick Snyder (2011-present) — but the party has had a difficult time sending someone to the Senate. Arthur Vandenberg won respect and an international reputation as a senator from 1928 to 1951, but the well has been awfully dry since then.
The only GOP senator is the past 39 years was Spencer Abraham, who had a single term before Stabenow bumped him off in November 2000.
Sometimes the party picked bad candidates. In 1970, at George Romney’s behest, party bosses picked his wife, Leonore, to run against two-term Senator Philip Hart. She was crushed, winning about one-third of the vote.
Sometimes the party made bad decisions. In 1984, astronaut Jack Lousma ran against first-term Senator Carl Levin. The early polls looked bad, so the GOP cut off funding for Lousma in August. Party leaders kicked themselves on election night after Lousma had collected 47% of the vote, giving Levin the stiffest challenge of his career.
So what will Republicans do in 2018: Select a bad candidate or make a stupid decision? At this point, anything is possible.
But one thing is certain if Kid Rock is in the race. It will be very, very interesting.