This election cycle was pretty sad for the GOP, especially on the popular music front. Every time the Republicans played a popular song at a campaign stop, they'd get a cease-and-desist order from Tom Petty or John Mellencamp the next day, insisting they'd rather die than be associated with Mitt Romney.
While the Obama campaign could draw upon an all-star roster of contemporary and classic musicians from Jay-Z to Bruce Springsteen, the Romney/Ryan ticket had to settle for endorsements from a motley crew (no, not the band) that included Pat Boone, Hank Williams Jr., Ted Nugent, Alabama, Meatloaf, the Oak Ridge Boys, Kid Rock and the surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Ironically, there are several fiscally conservative hip-hop stars who probably would have loved to have been approached for their support. Why wasn't LL Cool J asked to license "Mama Said Knock You Out" for large rallies in Ohio and Pennsylvania? And is there a bigger capitalist in all of popular entertainment than longtime George W. Bush groupie 50 Cent? Why didn't the Republican National Committee seek the support of these outspoken black Republicans? I think the answer is obvious.
Still, you didn't need the analytic skills of Nate Silver to know the GOP was hopelessly outgunned when it came to campaign music appreciated by folks who weren't rural Kentuckians. Sure, Paul Ryan worked out to Rage Against the Machine, but the affection wasn't mutual.
Until Bruce Springsteen acknowledged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's exceptional leadership during the Hurricane Sandy crisis, Republican officials' love of artists who leaned Democratic was mostly unrequited.
After scrupulously ignoring Mr. Christie for years, Mr. Springsteen helped propel him into the front ranks of the 2016 GOP presidential race with a hug backstage. Mr. Christie called the gesture one of the highlights of his life. When he's pumping "Glory Days" through his campaign speakers in Iowa four years from now, he won't have to worry about a cease-and-desist order from the Springsteen camp.
Not to be outdone, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is willing to say and do just about whatever it takes to win the hearts and minds of young people in 2016. Much has already been written about Mr. Rubio's cowardly dodge of a question about the age of the Earth during an interview with GQ recently.
"I'm not a scientist, man," the politician said before feigning indifference about whether the world was created in seven literal days or seven undefined eras. Because the theory of planetary evolution and the biblical account are at odds to the tune of 4.5 billion years, Mr. Rubio insisted it was a "mystery" best left to theologians and teachers to debate and teach all the theories.
On that point, Mr. Rubio comes across as depressingly Romney-like by capitulating early to the religious fundamentalists who represent the bulk of Iowa straw poll and primary voters. But lest we're tempted to completely discount his chances in 2016, attention should be paid to another section of the GQ interview where the Cuban-American politician waxed eloquently about his favorite hip-hop artists.
The 42-year-old defied the stereotype about Republican presidential candidates by competently name-checking hip-hop pioneers Afrika Bambaataa and Public Enemy along with newcomer Nicki Minaj. The senator also listed his favorite rap songs: N.W.A's "Straight Outta Compton," Tupac Shakur's "Killuminati" and Eminem's "Lose Yourself."
I admit I was surprised by Mr. Rubio's selection. It doesn't seem consistent with a politician's desire to play it safe. Still, we shouldn't be surprised. A strong libertarian streak runs through a segment of hip-hop that is probably ripe for exploitation by a canny politician like Mr. Rubio.
The fetish for guns, money and respect that buoys much of rap music would make it a natural soundtrack for the next RNC convention, though another generation of older white conservatives probably has to die before that happens.
That's not to say that Afrika Bambaataa, Chuck D or Nicki Minaj would ever endorse a Republican candidate (though Ms. Minaj created a stir with a mischievous tweet "endorsing" Mr. Romney earlier this year).
Still, most rappers are committed capitalists who wouldn't object too much if their music was played at the next Republican convention if it nominated someone like Mr. Rubio -- as long as they get paid for it. Maybe the notorious Tupac hologram will make an appearance, too.
Tony Norman: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1631. Twitter: @TonyNormanPG.