ROYAL OAK, Mich. – Mitt Romney was behind in the polls in the state of his birth and he knew he needed to close his Michigan campaign like a rock star.
So he called up the one rock star he knew might help. Last Thursday afternoon, after landing in Michigan following the Arizona debate, Romney ditched his campaign bus and hopped into a car with two senior aides and drove to visit another son of Detroit, Kid Rock.
At each of his rallies since early December, Romney has blared Kid Rock’s country-rock ode to freedom, “Born Free,” as his campaign anthem. And now, the Republican presidential candidate wanted Kid Rock to perform the patriotic song live, on Monday night, in Romney’s last rally before Michiganders headed to the polls.
But first, Kid Rock wanted to meet with Romney face-to-face. So on Thursday, shortly before he addressed a tea party forum, Romney journeyed to the artist’s home in Clarkston, a Detroit suburb. A Romney aide said they talked for about an hour.
“He put a piece of paper in front of me,” Romney later recounted at the rally. “He’d written down some questions for me. He said, first of all, ‘Mitt, if you’re elected president, will you help me help the state of Michigan?’ And I said I would.”
“He said, ‘If you’re elected president, will you help me help the city of Detroit?’ I said I would. And then I turned to him, and I said, ‘By the way, given the fact that I’m willing to do those things, will you come here and perform a concert (on Monday) for my friends?’”
The next day, according to an aide, Kid Rock personally e-mailed Romney agreeing to perform. Campaign officials quickly booked the Royal Oak Music Theatre in a Detroit suburb and announced a closing rally with a “special musical guest,” keeping Kid Rock’s identity a secret until Romney introduced him on stage.
So on Monday night, before more than 1,000 screaming supporters, Romney said: “I’m happy to introduce a son of Detroit, a friend, a guy who makes great music, who introduces me … everywhere I go, Kid Rock!”
At Romney’s cue, the red curtain opened on stage and Kid Rock began performing “Born Free.” The candidate and his wife, Ann, stood in front of the stage to watch, his arm over her shoulder. He was spotted – once – waving his arm in the air. He had the rock-star closing he was hoping for.