Which GOP Candidate Has Garnered the Most Surprising Rock Star Endorsement?

Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 28 2012 5:14 PM

Romney and Rock, Santorum and Mustaine, Paul and Clarkson, Gingrich and ... ?

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Republican candidate Mitt Romney shakes hands with Kid Rock during a campaign rally in Michigan yesterday.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The GOP candidates are competing on at least two fronts: They’re fighting for 1) delegates, and 2) bizarre endorsements from musicians. Romney may have seized the lead this week by getting the seal of approval from party-rocker extraordinaire Kid Rock.

From Elvis and Nixon to Johnny Ramone and President Bush, politics has prompted strange statesman-rock star pairings before. If you’ve been reading Slate’s Dave Wiegel, you know this season has brought a particularly bewildering batch. With the Rock/Romney news, we decided it was time to break down the ones we have seen so far in 2012.

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Mitt Romney endorsed by Kid Rock

How it happened: Romney reportedly drove out to Kid Rock’s home to make a personal plea for some much-needed Michigan-based musical mojo in a tight primary race against Santorum. Rock wrote out questions for Romney, including—according to the candidate—“Will you help me help the state of Michigan?”

Why it makes sense: They’re likely in the same tax bracket (or would be, anyway, if capital gains were taxed the same way as concert revenues and record sales). Rock, after all, once wrote about buying a “Yacht with a flag saying ‘chillin the most.’” And Rock’s “Born Free,” which Romney has been playing at campaign events, refers lovingly to “America the Beautiful,” a national hymn that Romney himself memorably rendered. An even better clue is offered in the song “Care,” from 2011. It mentions God, bemoans Washington’s acrimony and the destruction of Detroit, and includes the lyric, “I hear screamin’ on the left / yellin’ on the right / I’m sitting in the middle tryin’ to live my life.” Romney, who has notably straddled both sides of the political divide, may be just the politician for Rock.

Why it doesn’t make sense: Romney’s a clean-living Mormon, and Rock is a caught-on camera hedonist with an arrest record. Rock is infamous for his backstage womanizing and boozing; Romney is a teetotaler who tucks his shirt into his jeans.

Ron Paul endorsed by Kelly Clarkson

How it happened: Ahead of the Iowa caucus, Clarkson tweeted her support for the libertarian candidate, saying that if he won the nomination, “he’s got my vote.” The comment put the oldest GOP candidate in headlines next to the words American Idol and may have boosted Clarkson’s album sales.

Why it makes sense: Clarkson has many young fans; so does Ron Paul. Clarkson is also more of an outsider in the pop world than her American Idol background may suggest: She’s fought with RCA label executives over everything from her music to the way she’s packaged as a pop star. That’s a pattern of “speaking truth to power” that Paul himself could admire.

Why it doesn’t make sense: Clarkson’s comments upset some of her fans, whose anger about racist sentiments written in newsletters published under Paul’s name in the 1980s flared up on Twitter. Clarkson later had to clarify her statements, saying she didn’t support racism or the death penalty. But she stuck by her support of Paul. (She was later joined in her support by fellow musician Snoop Dog.)

Rick Santorum endorsed by Dave Mustaine (sort of)

How it happened: Megadeth's Dave Mustaine seemed to endorse Rick Santorum in an interview with MusicRadar (he also compared Ron Paul to insecticide, wondered where Romney got his money, and called Gingrich an “angry little man”). After the larger media picked up the story, Mustaine walked back his comments, saying he didn’t technically endorse anyone.

Why it makes sense: As Dave Weigel explained, Mustaine’s conservatism has long been on the record—literally. He has sung about his politics on such albums as The System Has Failed, and has expressed his distrust of the U.N. and desire for a strong Republican in the White House. He has also become a born-again Christian.

Why it doesn’t make sense: Hairdos and sweater vests, mostly.

Newt Gingrich endorsed by… no one?

Newt Gingrich’s campaign seems woefully devoid of big musician endorsements. So we’re going to throw this question out to our readers: What pop star should endorse him—and why?

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