Let’s get this out of the way right now: Yes, Kid Rock can absolutely win if he runs for U.S. Senate in Michigan. He will be in first place to win the GOP nomination within a week of entering the race, and instantly be a tossup to defeat Democrat incumbent Debbie Stabenow.
When Kid Rock first tweeted about running for Senate, political watchers rushed to proclaim that he was not serious about running, and that even if he were, he could not win the nomination, much less defeat the better-funded, more disciplined Democrat.
It’s hard to overstate the place Kid Rock holds in the consciousness of a certain segment of blue-collar Michigan voters. He is Detroit. He has made his quite lucrative career out of celebrating Michigan in general and Detroit in particular. He embodies the “Detroit vs. Everybody” mentality that defines southeastern Michigan. His “American Bad Ass” brand is tailor-made to appeal to a state and city that resent the contempt they feel from elitists around the country, while celebrating the overlooked virtues of the city and state. That’s an easy message to sell in a campaign.
Kid Rock Will Follow Donald Trump’s Strategy
If you can stop thinking about whether you believe Kid Rock should be in the Senate and just look at the dynamics of the campaign, it gets pretty obvious.
He has universal, unmatchable name ID in a divided field of Republicans. It’s a deep and impressive field by any conventional measuring stick but, for the most part, voters don’t know them. And the ones who do will, as we saw in the 2016 presidential primaries, divide their votes among the field of conventional candidates.
Earned media: He will get so much attention from the press. Like Donald Trump before him, Kid Rock will be the most interesting candidate in America from the sound of the opening gun. People will want to watch what he does, so CNN and company will keep the cameras on him. And they’ll use his first-place standing in the early polls to justify the ratings-grab. That’s what 2016 taught us.
He is running in a divided GOP primary: That means he doesn’t have to get 50 percent of Republicans, he probably just has to get one in three Republicans to vote for him. This was what Trump understood. He likely never would have won a true two-race race from the beginning, as all the anti-Trump voters would have been able to consolidate. But in a divided field, the candidate with a significant, devoted base is hard to beat.
The Michigan Senate race will be the most-watched campaign in America in 2018 if he runs. It’s got everything: celebrity, a battleground Trump won in 2016 and must win again to get re-elected, a conventional, disciplined, well-funded Democrat, a re-run of 2016, and a trailer for 2020, all rolled into one.
Kid Rock’s GOP opponents could quickly find themselves boxed out of media cycles day to day. Ask Trump’s opponents what it was like attacking him on the substance of issues while CNN and Fox were carrying Trump rallies in their entirety three times a week. There was nothing they could do.
But That’s Not All
It’s an open primary: Democrats and Independents are allowed to vote in the Republican primary. Kid Rock would be uniquely suited (again, similar to Trump) to get unaffiliated voters to come into the primary and vote for him. In a general against Stabenow, he would be able to draw the kind of disaffected working-class voters who propelled Trump to the White House to come out and vote. In a low turnout mid-term election, that’s huge—even more so than in a presidential, when turnout is higher anyway.
Southeast Michigan: In Michigan, the way a Republican wins is to run up the score outstate, not get killed in the city of Detroit, hold his or her own among Reagan Democrats in Macomb, and win Republican-leaning Oakland County. Kid Rock would be perfectly suited to do this. Not only would he drive up massive margins outstate as he brought new voters into the process, but the Democrat stronghold of Detroit is his natural base. Kid Rock starts out with an advantage in the Detroit area that literally no other Republican has ever enjoyed. He is a matchup nightmare for Stabenow and I promise you, she knows it.
Fundraising: Kid Rock is worth somewhere between $80 and $120 million. Similar to Trump, he could self-fund his campaign, but would also raise an ocean of small-dollar money from Republicans around the country.
He’d be able to run a totally asymmetrical campaign: Because Kid Rock is not expected to be like other candidates—in fact, he’s affirmatively expected to not be like other candidates—his TV ads could be completely unlike anything we’ve ever seen in American politics. (Explosions, hot chicks, GM trucks with the biggest tires devised by man, American flags, bald eagles: nothing is off the table here.) In fact, embracing how different he is might be the key to his candidacy.
Here’s Kid Rock’s Gameplan
If Kid Rock runs, his plan should be simple.
Do a free concert in all 83 counties of Michigan, and have an aggressive new voter registration operation there at the shows.
Ostentatiously refuse to ever speak to any press who covers politics, and only speak to entertainment, music, or local small-town newspaper reporters. (We have already learned from Trump what a great foil the press can be for a candidate.) This would drive the press insane, even while they cover his every move.
Embrace digital communication and speak directly to voters in edgy, even outrageous ways that would force the press to re-run Kid Rock ads for free.
Run as an aggressive populist campaign, attacking special interests, and pledge not to take a single donation over $100. Despite that, the campaign would likely raise $5-7 million online.
Absolutely pound Debbie Stabenow from Day One, both defining his real opponent and making all other GOP opponents look small.
Is Kid Rock going to run? I have absolutely no idea. Could he win? To borrow a phrase from the man himself: Hell, yeah.