Kid Rock, The Rock, Caitlyn Jenner hint at joining US politics - but what's in it for them?
Are they serious? Does wild-man rocker Kid Rock really think he could get elected as a US senator from Michigan?
Does wrestler-turned-movie star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson actually imagine he could be sitting in the Oval Office someday, as he mentioned in a GQ cover story?
And why does Caitlyn Jenner believe she could be elected in 2018 to the US Senate from California -- as a Republican, even -- as she suggested in a radio interview?
Well, why not? After all, Saturday Night Live comedian Al Franken got elected to the US Senate as a Democrat from Minnesota in 2008 and is now considered a "giant" of the world's greatest deliberative body, at least in his own comic mind and according to his latest book, Al Franken: Giant of the Senate.
The former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota in 1998 as a member of that state's Reform Party, and served one term.
The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was elected governor of California as a Republican in 2003 and served two terms. This was 36 years after Republican Ronald Reagan, a former B-movie star, was elected governor twice and POTUS for two terms.
And if those celebs-turned-pols weren't encouragement enough, there's the undeniable success of real-estate-tycoon-turned-reality-star-turned-President Donald Trump.
Senate Democratic leaders were taking Kid Rock seriously. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York emailed supporters to say he couldn't tell if it's real, a joke or a publicity stunt. "In the Trump era, we can't afford to take this tweet as a joke," Schumer said, according to CNN.
"The American dream used to be prosperity, but now it's celebrity, because it requires so little and pays so many dividends," says veteran PR consultant and Washington crisis manager Eric Dezenhall.
"You can be a failed businessman, play a mogul on TV and become president on the basis of sheer visibility," Dezenhall says. "You can be in a sex tape and achieve genuine financial success. Celebrity opens multiple doors, and while it's no guarantee, stars are right to put their faith in it."
So it's possible. Is it probable?
Well, first the would-be candidates have to do something more concrete than just float their maybe-someday political ambitions. And so far, none of these three wannabes has done anything of the sort. Their public remarks could just as easily be interpreted as shameless PR grabs or what-if speculation.
Trump fan Kid Rock's latest Twitter exclamation on the subject isn't exactly clarifying whether he's serious or not about running.
The recently created website, kidrockforsenate.com, sells political and music merchandise and invites fans to subscribe for email updates.
So far, his reps aren't returning messages from USA TODAY. But Fox News declared Kid Rock's Monday tweet amounted to "the basics of the platform for his Senate bid."
Check the Federal Election Commission's website for the required paperwork for officially announced, fund-raising candidates and committees, and you'll come up blank.
True, Kenton Tilford of Wheeling, W.Va., set up a committee, Run The Rock 2020, but Johnson himself had nothing to do with it, judging by FEC records.
Last week, Kid Rock (real name Robert Ritchie) began promoting his website on social media, leading to speculation that he might challenge US Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, in 2018.
When media reports in Michigan suggested last week the rocker wasn't serious, he countered that he had 15 days to file paperwork after announcing his candidacy.
Actually, says FEC spokesman Christian Hilland, he has 15 days to file paperwork after he's raised or spent in excess of $5,000 on political activity. Also, a candidate for US Senate has to notify the Senate's office of the Secretary of the Senate that he or she is running. None of this has happened, at least not yet.
Like Dezenhall, veteran PR expert Howard Bragman says celebrities and entertainers have good reason to think they can surf their fame into political office. Building name recognition is the biggest upfront expense for ordinary mortals, he says.
"When celebrities go in with a certain amount of name recognition, they have a leg up on someone you haven't heard of," he says. "Trump has certainly proved that someone with pure entertainment experience and some business experience can get elected."
Meanwhile, hinting at political ambitions can be a smart move, Bragman says. "It shows you care about something bigger than yourself, it's a great way to rally a base and your base at the same time, and you can monetize it. You can augment your brand in the same way celebrities do by taking political stands or stands on political causes."
But be careful, he warns. Politics, especially nowadays, is all about dividing and conquering, picking certain groups to appeal to, not necessarily all groups.
Johnson, for instance, has become a popular star by appearing in blockbuster movies that attract the widest possible audiences. He said in GQ that if he ran, he would run as an independent.
Jenner has a different problem: She's a Republican who would be running in perhaps the most Democratic state in the union. Though she supported Trump, she's dismayed so far by her party's and Trump's attitudes and policies toward transgender people.
"What's different in the entertainment/celebrity world is you're not trying to divide and conquer, you're trying to go as big as possible," Bragman says. "It can have unforeseen consequences if some of your fans become angry about your positions."
- USA Today