DETROIT (AP) — In the end, the political aspirations of musician Kid Rock were not laid bare Tuesday night before thousands of screaming fans when the rocker performed the first of six concerts at a new sports arena in Detroit.
For much of the summer, the Detroit-area native has teased a Republican run for the U.S. Senate. He continued doing so at the concert but did not say if he would enter the race.
Kid Rock's real name is Robert Ritchie. It is not clear which name could appear on the ballot if he runs — something that might make a difference in how well he would do.
"If Robert Ritchie were to submit enough valid signatures to make the ballot and he indicated that he wanted to be listed as 'Kid Rock' in some way on the ballot, Bureau of Elections staff would have to research further the question of whether that name would be allowed," Fred Woodhmans, a spokesman for the Michigan secretary of state's office told The Associated Press in an email.
Already, two Republicans have declared their candidacies for incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow's seat. Stabenow, who easily won re-election in 2006 and 2012, will seek a fourth term and is expected to formally launch her campaign next year.
Kid Rock —who first gained commercial success in the late 1990s with rap rock music but has been more associated with country music in recent years — has not been bashful about his political leanings. He endorsed Republican Mitt Romney for president in 2012 and Republican Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.
He hinted on social media in July that a website teasing his candidacy for Senate was real. His publicist said Kid Rock would give fans exclusive insight on his political views and aspirations after his first song Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena, sparking speculation that he might become a candidate at the new home for the NHL's Red Wings and the NBA's Pistons. Yet his obscenity-laced speech mirrored one he gave last week at a concert in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
He was introduced as Michigan's "next senator" and talked about running for president. He criticized the government's "redistribution of wealth" to help "some deadbeat milking the system" and said he has no problem with gay marriage. He blasted Nazis and the KKK and said he loves black and white people "but neither as much as I love red, white and blue."
His appearance was met by dozens of protesters from a civil rights group. One counter-demonstrator held a Confederate flag.
The National Action Network's Detroit chapter said Kid Rock's embrace of the Confederate flag, expletive-laced criticism of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and unabashed support for Trump have no place in Detroit, where about 80 percent of the city's 680,000 residents are black. Kaepernick, who is black, refused to stand during the national anthem while with the San Francisco 49ers last year in protest of police violence and social injustice.
Kid Rock, who is white, lashed out Monday at National Action Network in a Facebook post, saying politics are behind the threatened protest.
"Pay NO attention to the garbage the extreme left is trying to create!" he wrote. "They are trying to use the old confederate flag (issue), etc. to stir the pot, when we all know none of this would be going on if I were not thinking of running for office."
Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press reported Tuesday that Kid Rock denied the newspaper credentials to the show because of a recent column that criticized having the musician as the arena's opening act.
"We won't reward bad behavior," Kid Rock's publicist, Kirt Webster, told the newspaper.
To make the 2018 ballot, Kid Rock would need to submit 15,000 valid signatures by April 24.
Pollster Ed Sarpolus of Target-Insyght said Kid Rock is better positioned than other GOP candidates for now because "he's got name ID and he's likable."
The two declared Republican candidates are former state Supreme Court Justice Robert Young Jr. and businesswoman Lena Epstein. No one has filed to run for the Senate seat, Woodhams said.
If Kid Rock were to advance to face Stabenow, Sarpolus said, it would be tough to beat her.
"Where the battle's going to be played is where do the independents go were he to run?" Sarpolus said. "Both have known numbers. This is a battle of the fringes."
Associated Press writer Mike Householder contributed to this report. Eggert reported from Lansing, Michigan.