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Politicans As Rock Stars

Editor's Note: Hear Carrie's commentary on 'Politicians As Rock Stars' from NPR's Day to Day

Some of you might remember the post last week suggesting that we momentarily view the current presidential election through a musical lens. After all, as connoisseurs of music, we are often judging — or at least discussing — the best albums, shows, or bands. Additionally, we often care when our favorite bands pick horrible, or simply incongruous, openers at their live shows. But when the combination of headliner and supporting act is harmonious, or so mismatched as to be genius, it can make for an incredible experience.

Plus, since everyone else seems to have a methodology as to how Obama and McCain should go about choosing their running mates, we might as well propose one, as well. And once we determine the results — that McCain is, um, Liz Phair, and therefore his running mate should be RZA — then all we have to do is decide what politician is most like RZA. After that, we let John McCain's people know. Or something like that. See for yourself.

Thanks to everyone who sent in suggestions; they are included in the poll. Please vote for the best pair below. Write-in answers are also welcome in the comments section. Polling will end on Friday, July11th.

Quizzes by



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Write-in vote:

McCain: Frank Sinatra
Running mate: Jens Lekman

Obama: Common
Running mate: Tom Waits

Sent by nikki | 10:57 AM | 6-26-2008

this is the best idea i've read in a long time.

Sent by killabot | 12:56 PM | 6-26-2008

Wow, nikki. That is spot on. McCain is a sleezy old-timer who needs a young, hip yet unthreatening mate, painting a picture of rainbows and butterflies.

Obama is a Chicago underdog who speaks ad nauseum about "the people" and needs a respected, tireless workhorse.

Sent by Beth | 1:24 PM | 6-26-2008

Definitely Tom Waits for veep. I think he could balance out McCain quite nicely, too. Crotchety/Cantankerous in '08! I guess that might make McCain Van Morrison, but without the soul.

Sent by Nathan | 2:29 PM | 6-26-2008

JFK Jr. looks more and more prescient with George magazine, which treated politicians as rock stars. He just was 10 years too early.

Sent by Rick | 3:14 PM | 6-26-2008

obama = sugar ray
running mate = smashmouth

i don't know what that means, but i stand by it.

Sent by Lauren | 3:57 PM | 6-26-2008

although I already voted it dawned on me that obama is the shins. the kids love em' and cool moms do too! they were doing their thing for a while in new mexico then BAM exploded on the scene and stole the hearts of everyone with their fresh sound. a sound that sounds familiar yet new. a sound that is complex and smart yet has all the pop asthetics and therefore can flow in the mainstream.
running mate: bruce springsteen because that's such a great idea and was my second choice.

Sent by esme | 6:27 PM | 6-26-2008

I like the Sinatra / Common / Tom Waits idea, though I'm not sure about Lekman.

I went Arcade Fire - new, exciting, magisterial at times, but not everyone is sure they can trust 'em - with Bob Dylan, who gives the kind of gravitas needed for balance the new blood, solidifies interest in some core party values, as it were.

On the McCain side, I went with Aerosmith because I used to like Aerosmith, but at some point they started sounding too much like everyone else. As for a mate, Gnarls Barkley - you need some youth to balance, but still not soft. Maybe that's why I don't like the Lekman pick above.

Sent by AT | 6:36 PM | 6-26-2008

i have a write in vote as well, even though i should have come up with originally.

obama = yacht (a little different, but kind of familiar, hip, young, and draws a big, young crowd)
vp = sleater-kinney (old school, draws in the women who were let down by clinton leaving and/or didnt like clinton, but arent sure about obama, and draws a very diverse group {including young and old, from the riotgrrls to the pearl jam followers})

Sent by anon | 7:47 PM | 6-26-2008

@AT - Wow, I said exactly the same thing. I might've said Coldplay or U2 for Obama, but too many people hate them now. Arcade Fire has that right amount of youthful optimism but still feel relatively untested and somewhat unpredictable.
And Dylan just feels right with them, though if this were an actual show, they'd clearly be opening for him.

I went with the Eagles for McCain because they're inexplicably popular. And Maroon 5 as the running mate because they always seem to be touring with people they don't seem to be appropriate for.

Sent by historyman68 | 10:40 PM | 6-26-2008

How funny. And none of my votes even registered. I guess I've got these guys pegged wrong?

Sent by Carol | 1:21 PM | 6-27-2008

hilarious and awesome!

Sent by jehan | 4:21 PM | 6-27-2008

Lawrence Welk/MIA - what a combo!

Sent by Chad - Hungary for Turkey | 5:12 PM | 6-27-2008

This is pretty neat.
Obama IS cooler than me.

Sent by esme | 4:45 AM | 7-1-2008

Obama - M.I.A

VP - Wu Tang

Sent by Penelope | 6:27 PM | 7-1-2008

Obama: Lenny Kravitz (both are mulattoes imploring for love and peace)
Running mate: Jay-Z (he has foreign policy experience--"...girls all over the world"--he has known street warfare, and he knows how to "Get, that, dirt off your shoulder")

McCain: Alan Jackson (both know how to exploit national tragedies for their personal gain)
Running mate: Kanye West (he's charismatic, young, passionate about Jesus--that gets the Christian base--and it would help McCain distance himself from his support for Bush--just watch out for that VP debate!)

Sent by | 10:25 PM | 7-2-2008

I found this shocking. The suggestions are almost all white, and all are mass-market figures. Why don't you do a story on which musicians McCain and Obama actually listen to?

Thanks for your comment. The suggestions are culled from readers' responses. And good idea about the story. Actually, I did exactly that a few months back.
It aired on Talk of the Nation. -CB

Sent by Paul Simons | 1:55 PM | 7-11-2008

I'd say Obama is a mixture of Common and Vanilla Ice. He talks mildly progressive while being a hypocrite and acts like something he's not.

McCain - that's easy. He's the singing hamster/rat from the Quizno's commercial.

Sent by disappointedinchicago | 6:00 PM | 7-11-2008

Based on the results so far at, it looks like people are more influenced by the clickable graphic to the story at the NPR homepage (Ted Nugent next to McCain, Bono next to Obama) than they are by their own opinions.

Hopefully the results will be interesting despite this!

Sent by Heather | 6:13 PM | 7-11-2008

I can't tell you how elated I am to find GG Allin not only on NPR at all, but as a possible rockstar running mate. Cheers Carrie.

Sent by PF | 7:05 PM | 7-11-2008

Love the Kravitz and Jackson analogies. I would like to see THIS debate! But it would be better, as a potential president, for Lenny to keep away from Madonna.
I also wonder how Kanye will feel about the VP role, seems like its not high profile enough for him.

Sent by jen in detroit | 7:08 PM | 7-11-2008

Although I hadn't thought of it until now, I will write in "Tom Waits" at the ballot box.

Sent by Matt | 7:18 PM | 7-11-2008

Obama is that band that is right smack dab in the middle between indie and corporate -- he sings a little emo, but every once in a while he surprises you.
This guy needs someone to open for him who will draw in the boomers (and older) who wouldn't otherwise give the guy another look. That's why I voted for Bob Seger. He would bring in pretty much all the so-called "Clinton Democrats" -- the blue-collar vote. Plus, he does one of the most important things a VP nom can do -- he locks down a state (there's no way Michigan would vote against Seger -- even if McCain is the Nuge.)

Sent by Brendan | 10:04 PM | 7-11-2008

barack is definitely, springsteen, just cause he's the boss. and his running mate should be ?uestlove, cause that would be a sick concert

mccain is the eagles, because to quote Jeffery lebowski, "i hate the f**king eagles"

Sent by daniel Crowley | 12:21 AM | 7-12-2008

Barack is Leonard Cohen. Paced, with a hardcore social message if you pick through the flowery language.
His Veep are the Flaming Lips, only because I love that band.

Sent by Dale | 11:29 AM | 7-12-2008

I think Mc Cain is Boy George and the running mate should be Liberace

Sent by daniel | 2:15 PM | 7-12-2008

Barack Obama + the Dalai Lama =

Obama-Lama '08

baby momma for obama-lama!

Sent by bmartinsounds | 3:37 PM | 7-12-2008

Wow, this is a really useless poll.

Sent by chucky | 4:08 PM | 7-12-2008

Obama-Lama! Love it!

Sent by Linda | 6:23 PM | 7-12-2008

Have to disagree with the McCain = Eagles comment I heard you offer on NPR.

Don Henley was a big part of the Eagles, and he wrote Dirty Laundry, a very un-McCain expos?? of the TV news bizz. Henley's also written tunes about greedy and corrupt business people ("a lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than any man with a gun"). Sorry, I'd say McCain is more like New Kids On The Block...a soul-less product, put together by lawyers and execs.

Obama has more class and style. How about Obama = Herbie Hancock? His running mate should be Van Halen.

Sent by Seth Wittner | 7:56 PM | 7-12-2008

Obama: Arcade Fire. Intellectual but not for everyone.
Veep: Bob Dylan. Because he's Bob Dylan.

McCain: Green Day. Used to stand for something; doesn't anymore.
Veep: Sharon Osborne. She'll put everyone in their place.

Sent by Ivan Lopez | 9:05 PM | 7-12-2008

Obama - Jimi Hendrix
Running Mate - James Taylor

McCain - Barry Manilow
Running Mate - John Mayer

Sent by Marisa and Adam Solan | 11:54 PM | 7-12-2008

obama=lenny krawitz
mcCain=johnny cash
Hi! I'm writing from Italy and I lived in Rochester NY for 1year....From an overseas perspective, the political scene in America looks very well defined.....The Republican hero with the strong set of core values and the Democrat to bring about the change....
Italian Democrat veltroni has its own motto after "Change we can believe in"....Se po fa....
and Berlusconi, but its another story ..with no singing...
cheers stefano

Sent by stefano | 7:02 AM | 7-13-2008

Obama = Prince - Effortlessly charismatic; his gaffes somehow endear him to us, despite ourselves.
Veep = Flaming Lips - Would bring their years of experience to the ticket but are young enough that they wouldn't remind people of Obama's inexperience when paired together.

McCain = Rolling Stones (late period) - Both are aware, deep down, that their best days are behind them and yet both are too set in their ways to change; they know they're never going to come out with another McCain-Finegold Act/Exile on Main Street again so why try?
Veep = M.I.A. - Would bring much needed ethnicity to the GOP ticket; represents modernity, newness.

Sent by David | 12:35 PM | 7-13-2008

Sorta clever story. I give you an E for effort but a B- grade. Grades were given because of the sophomoric nature of story. Come on you got a spot on NPR make it worthwhile.

Sent by Mark | 11:06 PM | 7-13-2008

I think Obama would be one of those corporate bands trying to be indie cool, like Maroon 5. Rod Stewart fits McCain perfectly, he was so cool and now is so lame and schmaltze.

For VP's, Obama needs someone like Silversun pickups to try and make up for the credibility he lost. McCain can't get back his credibility so he should go with someone like Ricky Martin, because his crowd will think he's young and cool.

Sent by Greg | 7:55 AM | 7-14-2008

even in this fantasy quiz, 4 white guys are winning. me sad :(

Sent by jessamyn | 3:23 PM | 7-16-2008

if tom waits was president, all would be right in this world.

Sent by joe | 9:37 PM | 7-16-2008