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Frist’s NASCAR Play

Is Bill Frist moving from the people with fish on their cars to the people with gun racks in their trucks?

The Washington Times today revealed that country music star Hank Williams, Jr. has given his “pledge of support” to Majority Leader Bill Frist.  Hank is a good Republican who has written many hit songs over the years.  He even performed at one of the parties during the 2000 RNC Convention in Philadelphia. 

Also today, National Journal’s Hotline reported that Senator Frist’s PAC sent out an email praising NASCAR.  So in one day, Frist got the endorsement of a country star – and praised NASCAR.  Senator Frist recently lost his a huge chuck of his socially conservative base by reversing his position on federal funding of stem cell research.  Would it be suspicious of me to speculate he might just be reaching out to a different group of primary voters?

It’s not that outlandish of a theory – but few DC insiders would appreciate the brilliance of it. 

Inside the beltway types (including liberals and elitists of all stripes) have never understood the power of the NASCAR demographic.  They right them off as, “kooks” and disparage their homes as, “fly-over country.”  They fail to understand that country music is the most listened to format in America, and NASCAR is the fastest growing sport.  NASCAR fans have been known to be so loyal that they will sometimes buy a product just because it’s endorsed by “their driver.”  The most coveted endorsement in politics is probably Rusty Wallace or Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – not some politician. 

In 1976, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter used Southern Rock acts like Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, and The Charlie Daniels Band, to project a youthful and populist image.  Unlike rock acts such as U2 and Bruce Springsteen (who have been used by modern Democrats), these bands appealed to the rural God-fearing voters of Red-State America. 

Could the idea be replicated by a Republican? 

Why not?

Any candidate who can tap into this group of voters will be a force to be reckoned with.

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Written By

Mr. Lewis has managed political campaigns and served as director of grassroots for the Leadership Institute, as well as political director for GOPAC. In 2002, Campaigns & Elections magazine selected him as a "Rising Star of Politics." He is the author of "Teaching Elephants to Talk." His blog can be read at MattLewis.org.

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