Kid Rock ahead in hypothetical matchup with Debbie Stabenow, Large number of voters are undecided
On July 12th, 2017 Robert Ritchie, aka Kid Rock, confirmed of his intention to run for the United States Senate seat in Michigan. His announcement sent a shock through the media and many dismissed it as a cheap publicity stunt. While Ritchie has yet to file his official documentation to seek the office, he stated his intentions on Twitter and pushed back at his critics, saying “the press is wrong.”
Debbie Stabenow is the incumbent Democratic Michigan senator who is scheduled to defend her seat in 2018. Ritchie intends to run as a Republican who would likely have to defeat a crowded primary field to challenge Stabenow. The margin of error for the poll is 3.2% at 90% confidence.
To gauge Ritchie’s chances in a hypothetical general election matchup, Delta Analytica conducted a poll from July 14–18 of 668 Michigan residents. Of respondents who stated a preference between Debbie Stabenow and Robert Ritchie, 54% stated they would vote for Ritchie while 46% said they would vote for Debbie Stabenow. These results could indicate that Ritchie is a popular figure in Michigan, Debbie Stabenow is unpopular, or some combination of concurrent trends. The relatively large, 44%, number of undecided respondents may be due to the early stages of the campaign.
Michigan, once part of the Democrats vaunted “Blue Wall” is suddenly a battleground where Democrats and Republicans are now fighting for blue collar voters. This became a central theme during the 2016 election season, where Donald Trump won over the white working class vote. The question now is whether that support will rub off onto other Republicans candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. Robert Ritchie looks to capitalize on this fervor and promote his brand with song lyrics that appeal to these same Michigan voters, despite never having held any political office.
Celebrities running for political office is not really new, and many have been demonstrably successful. One contemporary example is Al Franken, a former Saturday Night Live writer, and currently a senator from Minnesota. Franken, who had espoused his political beliefs for years prior to his candidacy, had not been an elected official prior to his successful Senate run. He was re-elected in 2014 and still occupies a seat in the Senate. Another example is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who famously became California governor after a successful recall of the then Governor Gray Davis in 2003. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, was then re-elected in 2007 and held office until 2011. Finally, the most renowned example would be Ronald Reagan. He was elected Governor of California in 1966 and went on to become the 40th President of United States after a distinguished career in television and Hollywood. However, none of these examples seem to explain the current fascination and scope of political candidacies from celebrity outsiders.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has stated he is considering a run for the presidency in 2020. Oprah Winfrey has also expressed interest in the 2020 race. So has Mark Cuban, Mark Zuckerberg and others. Has Donald Trump emboldened a new generation of celebrities to seek higher office in the United States? Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign heavily relied on viral media coverage and social media in lieu of traditional ad spending. His campaign and PACs were outspent by a 3 to 1 ratio by Hillary Clinton, yet he prevailed. Is the direct contact with voters by via platforms such as Twitter the recipie for celebrity political success? A recent poll by Rasmussen suggests that voters are not ready to give up traditional political candidates. However, our poll showing that Robert Ritchie can defeat incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in a hypothetical matchup indicates the culture of celebrity may become more political.