Trump effect? Rock star leads incumbent Dem in Senate race

Poll shows rock singer Kid Rock defeating incumbent Democratic Michigan senator by 8 points in 2018 matchup.

David Rosenberg ,

Robert James Ritchie, better known by his stage name 'Kid Rock
Robert James Ritchie, better known by his stage name 'Kid Rock

Will a rock star and political neophyte unseat a three-term Democratic Senator from Michigan?

Not long ago such a suggestion might have seemed absurd, but less than a year after a real estate mogul turned reality TV show host won the highest office in the land, celebrity candidates appear increasingly viable as serious competitors.

Earlier this month, rock singer and guitarist Robert Ritchie, better known by his stage name ‘Kid Rock’, announced his bid for the US Senate seat in his home state of Michigan presently held by three-term Democrat Debbie Stabenow.

The announcement, Ritchie insisted, was not “a hoax” or publicity stunt, noting his years of political activism in the Republican Party.

Ritchie, whose music fuses heavy metal, rap, and country, has sold some 35 million albums worldwide. He was one of the few prominent members of the entertainment industry to publicly endorse Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid, and voiced support for Donald Trump in 2016.

While the Republican primary for the 2018 Michigan Senate race is still a year away, a new poll suggests that if nominated, Ritchie would be very competitive in a head-to-head race with Stabenow.

According to a survey by Delphi Analytica, the 46-year old rock star would defeat the 67-year old incumbent by a margin of 54% to 46% if the election were held today, though a large number of respondents said they were undecided.

The poll surveyed 668 Michigan residents and did not screen for likely voters. Of those polled, 44% said they had no preference or preferred not respond. Thirty percent said they would vote for Ritchie, while 26% said they would vote to reelect Stabenow.

If elected, Ritchie would likely become the first performing artist to serve in the US Senate, but not the first prominent entertainer with no prior political experience to serve in high office.

Prior to winning the presidency in 1980, Ronald Reagan, a former Hollywood actor, became Governor of California in 1967 with no past political experience.

In 1998, actor and professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura was elected as Governor of Minnesota. Five years later, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected as Governor of California.

In the Senate, former comedian and Saturday Night Live writer Al Franken has represented Minnesota since 2009.