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Kid Rock is running for Senate. Or is he?

The musician has launched a new campaign website, but it sure does look like a viral marketing stunt.

2017 CMT Music Awards - Show Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for CMT
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

Kid Rock launched a website on Wednesday that suggests the musician and Donald Trump supporter is mulling a bid for a Michigan senatorial seat. Kid Rock For Senate immediately went viral, and sparked debate over whether the site is an attempt to gauge interest in a real political run, or just an instance of viral marketing.

Rock, whose real name is Robert Ritchie, added to the confusion with a tweet affirming that the website — though not necessarily the senatorial bid — is real.

Most skeptics are assuming the website is a viral marketing campaign for an upcoming Kid Rock album, rather than the beginnings of an actual political campaign. The Kid Rock for Senate landing page is hosted on Rock’s commercial Warner Brothers Records artist website, where, in addition to a small selection of “Kid Rock for Senate” apparel and yard signs, he’s also selling more traditional fan merchandise (including this controversial pro-Trump T-shirt).

Additionally — and more importantly — the musician has reportedly not filed any paperwork with the Federal Election Commission suggesting that he actually intends to run for office.

Still, this isn’t the first time Rock has made political overtures. Though he has no actual political experience, he’s a self-defined “Republican on certain issues” who previously campaigned for Mitt Romney in 2012 and supported Ben Carson before backing Donald Trump in Michigan’s 2016 Republican primary. He also performed at last year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and in April, visited President Trump in the Oval Office, along with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and musician-turned-political-activist Ted Nugent.

Earlier this year, he was also reportedly being sincerely considered as a potential GOP candidate for the 2018 Michigan Senate race. If he were to run, he’d be facing off against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who is up for reelection.

Should Kid Rock seriously wish to run for office, he must either raise or spend $5,000 for or on his campaign, after which he has 15 days to file with the FEC. And, notably, he’s already promised a major announcement in “the near future” which could fit the bill — or be something completely different.

In all likelihood, the Kid Rock for Senate website is a well-played viral marketing campaign that builds upon a somewhat long tradition of famous entertainers teasing political runs or being put forth by their fans as possible candidates. Given that the move comes just days after a similar attention-grabbing effort to push the Rock to run for office — that’s the Rock, not Kid Rock — it seems possible that Kid Rock may be seizing the moment to steal the limelight from his sedimentary relative.

If that’s his aim, it’s worked — and at the very least, it’s given Twitter plenty of joke fodder.

Update, July 14: Without actually confirming whether he was running for office, Rock indulged in a bit more teasing the idea in a statement on his blog. In the post, titled “Once Again the Press Is Wrong,” Rock suggested he might still file FEC paperwork announcing his campaign, promised to release two new songs at midnight (“Like politicians write books during their campaigns, I'm planning on putting out music during mine”), and insisted, “It's not a hoax, it's a strategy and marketing 101!” The since-released songs include promotions for a new Kid Rock tour called the Greatest Show on Earth.

Rock also mocked press for allegedly incorrectly reporting that he was affiliated with Warner Bros. Records — without addressing the fact that his merchandising website is hosted on the Warner Bros. Records server, and copyrighted to both him and Warner Bros. — and called out his potential opponent, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D - MI).

“Senator Stabenow and I do share a love of music, although probably not the same kind,” he wrote. “I concede she is better at playing politics than I am so I'll keep doing what I do best, which is being a voice for tax paying, hardworking AMERICANS and letting politicians like her know that We the People are sick and tired of their bullshit!”

Stabenow responded on Twitter:

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