- The Washington Times
Thursday, August 10, 2017

Kid Rock’s path to the Senate may turn out to be a lonely road of faith.

The singer, whose birth name is Robert James Ritchie, is the latest celebrity to take a look at running for federal office, eyeing the Michigan seat held by Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow.


He says he is taking it seriously.

“As part of the excitement surrounding this possible campaign, I decided to take a hard look to see if there was real support for me as a candidate and my message, or if it was just because it was a fresh new news story,” Mr. Ritchie said in a statement.

After a bodybuilder and action-movie star won the governorship in California, a “Saturday Night Live” comic sits in one of Minnesota’s Senate seats and a reality TV star occupies the White House, Mr. Ritchie’s path is well-trodden.

And like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Franken and President Trump, he may have to overcome a lineup of more traditional candidates if he wants to reach Washington.

Mr. Ritchie said his first goal will be to promote voter registration and he will decide later whether to seek the Republican Senate nomination.

Democrats and Republicans agree that the primary race will be tough and that, like Mr. Trump, Mr. Ritchie would have a tall order in earning the Republican nomination, much less defeating the three-term incumbent Ms. Stabenow.

“Kid Rock has done us all a favor to bring attention to the race. This is something all Republicans should take a look at,” said Sarah Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Republican Party.

Ms. Anderson noted other strong Republicans potentially in the field. She pointed to Rep. Fred Upton, who represents the state’s 6th Congressional District and has shown interest in a run, and to businesswoman Lena Epstein, who has already launched her campaign.

Mr. Ritchie’s music morphed from his early days of rap-rock to country and blues in the early 2000s.

He became active with military organizations after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and subsequent wars but shied away from overt politics. In 2008, he told CMT Insider that entertainers “should keep their mouth shut on politics.”

By 2012, that had changed. He endorsed Mitt Romney for president, and his song “Born Free” became Mr. Romney’s campaign rally theme music.

He initially endorsed Detroit native Ben Carson in the Republican presidential primary race last year but then supported Mr. Trump.

Still to be seen is whether Mr. Ritchie can tap into the Trump coalition that helped the real estate mogul claim the state in the November presidential election — the first time Michigan has gone Republican since 1988.

“There are people, tea party politicos, libertarians and conservatives that are supporting Kid Rock, but then there are others who are not because there’s a question of whether he is pro-life, and it was determined that he was not,” said Joan Fabiano, founder of Grassroots in Michigan, a conservative tea party group.

Ms. Fabiano said some Republican voters may sour on Mr. Ritchie because of past indiscretions, including a sex tape, and his pro-choice views. Other voters will deem those “in the past,” she said.

She doubted Trump voters would rally around a single candidate and said she is watching John E. James, a 36-year-old black businessman from Detroit who is being courted for the seat. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and an Iraq War veteran, he serves as CEO of Renaissance Global Logistics.

“It’s definitely going to be a contested primary,” she said. “In the primary, we’re going to have a divide with tea party adherents and libertarians and other activists.”

Others said Trump voters are Republican voters, so there is no special coalition to try to win.

Whether those voters turn out for the Republican candidate in the general election remains to be seen.

“It’s still too early to ultimately tell, but the reason Trump won is that Republicans overwhelmingly came together and voted for him. And everything we’ve seen in polling so far shows that the president still has a favorable rating in those who identify as Republicans,” said David Doyle, executive vice president at Marketing Research Group, a political consulting firm in Lansing.

Joe DiSano, a Democratic consultant in Michigan, said he doubted that Mr. Trump’s voters will unify.

“I don’t think the Trump coalition transitions over to whoever is the Republican candidate,” Mr. DiSano said. “I think it’s the same problem President Obama always had trying to reassemble his coalition.”

As for Mr. Ritchie, the Democratic strategist said his interest in the race should be taken seriously — but he doubts the rocker will run in the end.

“I think what he’ll do is come out and say that ‘I’m thrilled at the interest and I’ll look in the future, but right now it’s not the right time.’ Some BS like that,” Mr. DiSano said.

Mr. Ritchie has earned the race more attention at this point than it would usually garner, and he is in the mix.

“A number of public surveys have showed [Mr. Ritchie] doing well in the Republican primary so clearly people are interested in somebody in the Republican primary being outside of the mainstream,” said David Doyle, executive vice president at Marketing Research Group, a political consulting firm in Lansing.

But Democrats say the added interest in the race doesn’t matter if Mr. Ritchie drops out.


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