Lansing — Michigan celebrity musician Kid Rock leads the potential field of Republican candidates for U.S. Senate and — if he gets into the race — might begin his campaign within striking distance of Democrat incumbent Debbie Stabenow.
A new Target-Insyght poll of 822 likely Michigan voters showed Stabenow with a 50-42 percent lead in a hypothetical general election matchup with Kid Rock, who is flirting with a Senate run but has not yet declared his candidacy. The statewide sample conducted last Tuesday and Thursday had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
The survey also showed relatively strong support for Republican President Donald Trump in Michigan, a finding that is reflected in the U.S. Senate numbers, said pollster Ed Sarpolus.
“I think part of Kid Rock’s success is the fact the Trump effect is still out there,” Sarpolus said. “I mean Kid Rock curses and swears like (former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci), so basically Kid Rock is a mini Trump.”
Forty-nine percent of likely Michigan voters who participated in the poll said Trump is doing an “excellent” or “pretty good” job in the White House, while 50 percent said he is doing “only fair” or “poor.” Nationally, Trump’s job approval rating stands at less than 40 percent, according to a poll average compiled by Real Clear Politics.
“Michigan is still a Trump state,” Sarpolus said. “It’s still a very close state, but any candidate on the Democratic side is going to have to face the impact of Donald Trump’s people out there. Will they show up and vote Republican?”
Stabenow is a strong fundraiser and campaigner who won re-election by large margins in 2012 and 2006. But the Lansing resident is an early target for Republicans as one of 10 Senate Democrats up for re-election next year in a state that Trump won in 2016.
“She’ll take this seriously, she’ll raise the money and she’s a fighter,” Sarpolus said. “Would I be scared (of a potential Kid Rock run) if I was Debbie? Yes, for the fact it means she’s going to have to work harder than expected.”
The Target-Insyght poll was commissioned by the MIRS subscription news service and provided to The Detroit News. It included a mix of automated land-line surveys (79 percent) and live operator cell phone calls (21 percent).
The poll also showed strong support for Kid Rock among likely GOP primary voters. Of the 344 Republicans interviewed, 33 percent said they would support the musician over other candidates in the race.
Results from the smaller GOP sample have a larger margin of error of plus or minus 5.35 percentage points. It involved 83 percent of automated land-line interviews and 17 percent of live operator cell phone calls.
Businessman and military veteran John James of Farmington Hills polled second at 16 percent, followed by former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bob Young of Laingsburg at 14 percent and businesswoman Lena Epstein of Bloomfield Hills at 8 percent.
The poll used Kid Rock’s stage name. His real name, Robert Ritchie, would likely appear on the ballot if he actually ran.
“This far out, it’s almost purely name ID,” Republican consultant John Truscott said. “People know who (Kid Rock) is. He’s quite a personality, and when you’re vote isn’t counting for anything this far out, it’s really easy to support something that’s a little out of the ordinary.”