Mitt Romney chooses theme song. Is 'Born Free' a good choice?(Read article summary)
Mitt Romney has chosen Kid Rock's 'Born Free' as the theme song for his presidential campaign, but pundits wonder what he's trying to say with the choice.
Ross D. Franklin/AP
More likely, the buttoned-up candidate's just-announced choice of Kid Rock's "Born Free" for his campaign theme song is simply a patriotic play to the everyman. But pundits have been left feeling a bit underwhelmed.Â
The point of a theme song is to tell voters something about the candidate that isnât well, obvious. And so, this ditty presents a problem for the former Massachusetts governor. âWhat does âBorn freeâ tell us about Romney? Not much,â saysÂ Atlanta-based Republican strategist David Johnson.
Romney will like that fact that Mr. Rock, like himself, is a Michigander. And Michigan could be a key swing state. Moreover, Rock's got the whole "cool patriot" thing down. The lyrics of the anthem run:
Fast, on a rough road riding,
High, through the mountains climbing,
Twisting, turning further from my home.
Young, like a new moon rising.
Fierce, through the rain and lightning.
Wandering out into this great unknown,
And I don't want no one to cry.
But, tell 'em if I don't survive,Â
I was born free!
Is he is trying to appeal to the voters in New Hampshire â an early-primary state whose motto is âLive Free or Dieâ? âThen heâs got another problem, because heâs not running for governor of New Hampshire, heâs running for president,â says Mr. Johnson.
Is he trying to rumple his own starched image? Then the song creates a "credibility gap," peddling an image of the candidate that is far removed from voters' perceptions of him, saysÂ presidential scholar Charles Dunn. For a man often who, critics say, shifts his positions solely to get elected, that might not be the best message.
Now that Newt Gingrich is running strong â polls show him with double-digit leads on Romney nationally and in key early-nominating states â Romney may want to choose another theme song, says Mr. Dunn. âI was thinking of something more along the lines of the Paul Simon tune, âSlip slidinâ away,' â he says with a laugh.
Theme songs, of course, "donât do much to help candidates to reach out to theÂ undecided voter,â says Dunn. But they can rev up staff and hardcore followers as well as set the tone for a campaign. In this increasingly media-driven age, where information is delivered in shorter and shorter bites, anything that will cut through the clutter and make an impression is useful.Â
History is full of brilliant and blundering choices. Franklin Roosevelt's signature âHappy Days Are Here Againâ and Bill Clintonâs âDonât Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow),â by Fleetwood Mac, are perhaps two of the most successful theme-song choices in modern politics. âThey told voters what to think about the candidate, and how his presidency would look,â says Johnson.
There are gaffes, too, which are sometimes warning signs of a campaign in some disarray. John McCain used a Tom Petty's, âI Wonât Back Down,â but the artist asked him to stop using it. Michele Bachmann tried to use another Petty tune, âAmerican Girl,â and the singer issued a cease-and-desist order â which the candidate appeared to ignore when she continued to roll the song at later campaign stops.
While the law on a politicianâs use of a particular song is not clear, âYou probably donât want to have your artist stepping up to not only say, 'Donât use my song,' but possibly even endorsing your opponent,â says Johnson.Â
So far, Kid Rock, who has supported Republicans in the past, remains mum on the Romney choice.