As New York’s own Ed Kilgore accurately notes, Rock’s libertarian rhetoric of simplifying law codes, tax codes, and health care has an uncommonly high hat/cattle ratio. But simple messages, delivered frequently and repeated with enthusiasm, help win elections far more than fact-checking and bet-hedging. The Michigan Senate election is Stabenow’s to lose, but if she and her party fail to offer clear policy prescriptions (Medicare for all being an obvious example) of their own, it’s possible, if not quite plausible, that she could lose it.
Of course, a lot of other things would have to happen to bring Rock into striking distance, but nothing is certain, and the impossible has become a regular occurrence. Terrorist attacks and war declarations have been known to alter the usual electoral logic: Despite George W. Bush holding the presidency, the 2002 midterms tilted Republican thanks to 9/11 and the bombing of Afghanistan. In a time when even the week ahead is beyond prediction, there’s no way to be clear what the world will be like in November 2018. Only once Kid Rock isn’t sworn in as a senator in 2019 will it be certain that Kid Rock will not be a senator, and maybe not even then — he’s only 46 right now, and who knows how long Stabenow, who will be 74 once her presumed fourth term ends, can remain in office. It seems unlikely that Rock will go away, even if he loses. And win or lose, what happens to him matters. So long as he significantly narrows Stabenow’s margin of victory relative to 2012, his run can be taken as proof that Trump-style barnstorming is a viable election strategy that may well outlast candidate Trump himself.