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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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American Fool: John Mellencamp for Senator?

February 17, 2010 |  6:03 pm

You don't have to be a political junkie like me to know that, with the economy still in low gear and healthcare having gone down in flames, the Democrats are going to be in big trouble this November. Many pundits are already predicting that the Democrats could lose as many as 40 seats in the House and six or seven Senate seats, leaving them with the barest of bare majorities.

It was pretty clear that times were hard when Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who was expected to cruise to an easy victory in the fall, abruptly announced his retirement earlier this week, making it a very real possibility that the Democrats could lose his seat, since Indiana is a traditionally GOP state. But wait! Could John Mellencamp, perhaps the best-known Hoosier after Larry Bird, save the day? The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel has already been promoting a Mellencamp candidacy. And now Brent Budowsky, a former aide to Sen. Birch Bayh, Evan's dad, is touting Mellencamp as well.

Mellencamp2 In a piece he posted for the Hill, Budowsky calls a Mellencamp candidacy an "inspired idea," saying that the singer is "unique, one of a kind, a voice for the people who believe America needs a new brand of politics and new kind of leadership in the Senate.... I believe John Mellencamp would electrify the campaign and electrify Democrats who want a fighter for working people, farmers, small businesses and small-town America."  

Of course, even though Mellencamp was at the White House just last week, performing as part of a celebration of music from the civil rights era, he hasn't shown the slightest sign of interest in running for office. And while I'd love to see Indiana stay in the Democratic column, I can't say that I'm especially enthusiastic about the party turning to showbiz non-pros in its desperate search for a viable candidate. Once you get past George Clooney, who seems to have a better grasp of most issues than about half of the House of Representatives, it would be hard to imagine any Hollywood type being a worthwhile candidate for any office above film commissioner.

The only good news is that with the Republicans cozying up to all sorts of untested Tea Party oddballs, it would be hard for conservative pundits to engage in any of their customary celeb bashing if Mellencamp were to actually throw his hat in the ring. If in the movie business this is the year of "Avatar," in politics this is the year of the amateur.

Photo of John Mellencamp by Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

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