Senator Robert J. Ritchie (R-MI).
Looks pretty normal, but the AKA of that guy would be Senator Kid Rock.
Now we’ve ventured somewhere strange.
But it turns out this is semi-serious news at this point. Ritchie/Kid Rock has thus far not ruled out a run for the Senate and appears to be seriously considering it. He would be challenging the incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), in his home state of Michigan.
Ritchie’s public persona has led a lot of people to scoff at the prospect of a run for Senate. However, he is not taking a path that hasn’t been walked before. There have been several politicians who have made jumps from unorthodox careers into prominent political office including former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura, current Minnesota senator Al Franken, and, of course, our current President Donald Trump.
So if those people have done it, perhaps we shouldn’t dismiss the prospect of Senator Kid Rock as a joke so readily. And if you look into it, Ritchie has been quite politically outspoken throughout his music career (actually, he’s just been outspoken in general with politics mixed in there sometimes).
The Origins of a Senator Bid (Rock)
Throughout it all, Ritchie has actually articulated some well thought out political opinions. Of course, having opinions doesn’t really prepare you for the rigors of lawmaking, but in terms of running for office, it certainly helps that he doesn’t appear to be a complete moron, liberal use of expletives aside.
In fact, his name recognition may help him along in running a campaign. He would instantly become the favorite in the Republican primary field because of his near-universal name recognition. Many aspiring politicians find the barriers to entry to impossibly high because of the large cost to build up name recognition, a ground game, and goose voter turnout. Ritchie doesn’t need that. And despite what you may think of him and his music, he is quite popular in his home state of Michigan, so that name recognition is not really negative for the most part.
Ritchie will have to clean up his message though. For this, he can look to the example of Franken. Franken had a long career as a comedian and a satirist, and he had previously expressed some incendiary opinions. For his Senate run though, he basically did his best impression of a normal, non-controversial politician and continued that throughout his first term.
Parallels from past races: Al Franken
Franken’s race in 2008 can give us some insight into Ritchie’s chances. The deeply contested election pitted Franken, the Democratic nominee (technically DFL, but we don’t have time for that), against incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman. Franken did prevail with less than 1% of the total vote separating them. However, Franken prevailed against an unpopular incumbent while riding the coattails of Barack Obama atop the ticket. And even then the election was decided by a razor thin margin.
And that’s the biggest thing holding Ritchie back. As much as the “Kid Rock” name can help him, there are several fundamental factors that work against him, fundamentals that have not (yet) been disproven by Trump.
3 Obstacles Kid Rock Will Have to Overcome
First, Sen. Stabenow is relatively popular in Michigan with a recent Morning Consult poll putting her at a net +8 approval rating in Michigan. There’s currently no indication that she’s ripe to be unseated. Despite the many, many media reports about the death of the Democratic Party in Rust Belt states, the reality is people are voting for the person, not the party, and that matters for the independent voters that elections hinge on. And like most members of Congress, Stabenow is far more popular among voters than Congress as an institution is.
Second, incumbency advantages are real. Not only does the support (read: money) of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee help (something only given to incumbent senators), but the name recognition and the track record of bringing benefits to constituents are essential advantages. Stabenow has handily won reelection in her last two go arounds.
Third, the natural ebb and flow of national politics typically disadvantages the president’s party in midterm elections. Trump’s relative unpopularity exacerbates that, and the trend from special elections that have been held since November have shown we are likely in for a wave election of Democrats in 2018.
Does He Really Have a Shot?
So what to make of all this? If Ritchie decides to run, he would likely be the Republican nominee for the Senate seat. However, his chances of unseating Stabenow are not likely to be good. This is contrary to a recent poll that got the conservative media into a bit of a frenzy, which showed Ritchie leading Stabenow in a prospective race by four points. Don’t be fooled. Polls this early mean next to nothing (especially a single poll as opposed to an average of several). Further, even in that poll, a plurality of the sample declined to pick a candidate. There’s a lot of room for movement between now and November 2018. (By the way, look up your pollsters, this particular poll was by Delphi Analytica, which was founded in 2017 and has no track record of quality polling.)
That said, if Ritchie runs, he will be a serious challenger and we should treat him as such. Who knows, maybe a musician can be a senator.
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