Robert “Kid Rock” Ritchie’s months-long flirtation with a Republican Senate bid in Michigan appeared to come to an end Tuesday in an interview with Howard Stern — moments before the rapper-singer suggested that he could still run if he felt disrespected by the press.
“F‑‑‑ no, I’m not running for Senate. Are you kidding me?” Kid Rock said on Stern’s SiriusXM show. “Who couldn’t figure that out? I’m releasing a new album. I’m going on tour, too.”
The interview appeared to confirm that Kid Rock’s three-month-old “Senate bid,” which began when his website started selling campaign merchandise in July, was a remarkably successful publicity stunt. A handful of tweets and blog posts, followed by rhyming “political speeches” in the middle of his concerts — delivered behind an official-looking lectern — led to numerous think pieces, to reporters descending on his “major announcements,” and to support from Stephen K. Bannon and the super PAC allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“We’d be actually very interested in his candidacy,” said Steven Law, the president of the Senate Leadership Fund, when asked by C-Span if the author of songs like “Black Chick, White Guy” and “Cadillac P‑‑‑y” would be welcomed by Republicans. “I certainly wouldn’t count him out.”
But in the Stern interview, Kid Rock was clear: His “campaign” was a stunt that people had taken too seriously.
“I told Eminem’s manager the other night — I saw him at the Pistons game when he got cheered and I got booed, according to the New York Times — I said, let’s not let this divide us,” said the 46-year-old musician. “I said, ‘Dude, I started this s‑‑‑. I’ve got motherf‑‑‑ers thinking I’m running for Senate.’ People who are in on it are like, ‘Are you really doing it?’ I’m like: ‘Dude, you’re f‑‑‑ing in on the joke! Why you asking me if I’m doing it?’ ”
Seconds later, tongue firmly in cheek, Kid Rock laid out the conditions for a possible run: If newspapers keep making fun of him, he will jump in and defeat “Debbie whatever-the-f‑‑‑ her name is” to get revenge.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is up for reelection in 2018, though the Democrats’ surprise defeat in Michigan last year has not helped Republicans find a first-tier challenger. The only candidates running for the party’s nomination so far are former state Supreme Court justice Bob Young, former congressional aide Bob Carr, and Iraq War veteran John James. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has put out feelers to donors about a bid of his own.