While the didgeridoo might be an, er, unconventional choice of wind instrument for a small-town politician, having a musical bullet point on a politician’s personal résumé is not. Keep in mind: These folks want to appear as normal as possible, and musical talents are a surefire icebreaker.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has long used his mean harmonica skills to connect with voters, including during the 2016 presidential campaign when he was Hillary Clinton’s running mate. During a 2015 appearance on ABC’s “The View,” former Maryland governor and Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley played the guitar and sang a few verses from Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.” And no one can forget Bill Clinton shedding the pol-as-stuffed-shirt stereotype when he played the saxophone on Arsenio Hall’s show and on MTV during his 1992 campaign. And we bet you didn’t know that Richard Nixon was a pretty decent pianist. He even tickled the ivories on “The Jack Paar Program” in 1963, playing his own composition in front of live audience.
Okay, fine, so that was then. But what about the other 2020 candidates?
Of course, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke’s stint as a guitarist in a punk band is a part of his campaign biography and cool-kid persona — and his proficiency gave him the chance to play alongside country legend Willie Nelson at a rally during his failed Senate run. He even had Beyoncé on his squad for a minute there.
Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper is also a legit musician who throughout his public career has taken the stage to play guitar and banjo with the likes of Old Crow Medicine Show and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead.
Shortly after kicking off his presidential campaign, Hickenlooper played the piano at a house party thrown by Iowa supporters.
And while he doesn’t have quite the same chops as the “rock governor,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders does have an album credit and a Grammy nomination to his name. In 1987, Sanders released what he later called “the worst album ever recorded,” a folk music and spoken-word mash-up titled “We Shall Overcome,” which he narrated.
The Grammy nod was for the audiobook version of his manifesto “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In,” which he voiced along with actor Mark Ruffalo.
We’re calling Rep. Tulsi Gabbard the sleeper musical talent among the current crop of wannabe nominees: She posted a Facebook video of her and husband Abraham Williams performing a rendition of “Hawaiian Lullaby” as they strolled through the Capitol basement. The song was a tribute to the late senator Daniel Akaka, the Hawaiian Democrat for whom Gabbard had served as a congressional staffer.
Williams sang and played the ukulele while Gabbard offered some sweet harmonizing.
But as the race gets closer and the field narrows down, there’s no telling which candidate’s random guitar- (or sitar-) shredding skills may emerge as folks vying for the Oval Office try to distinguish themselves from one another. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) isn’t afraid to bop to Cardi B (who has already sat down with Sanders for a campaign video, by the way) and has said she loves Tupac. MC Harris, anyone?