"I'm running for Congress," American Idol contestant-turned-pop-singer Clay Aiken tweeted Wednesday morning to his (rather unimpressive?) 49,000-or-so followers. He will not win.
Aiken, a native of North Carolina, plans to challenge the Rep. Renee Ellmers for the state's Second Congrssional District. Aiken has long lived in the area, just southeast of Raleigh, a fact that plays heavily in the video he's using to introduce his campaign. Standing in the living room where he grew up, he describes his abusive father and relationship with his mother.
"If you only know the story of the part of my life that begins with the golden ticket, you might wonder what would qualify me to run," he says, referring to the American Idol audition process, because he was on American Idol. He attacks Ellmers for voting for cuts to the military and for her deeply ill-advised decision to refuse to give up her salary while others were idle during the government shutdown because "I need my paycheck." Otherwise, it's the pitch of a Democrat running in North Carolina: we need more compromise between the parties in Washington.
"I'm not a politician," Aiken says at one point. "I don't ever want to be one." I am not a political scientist, but it seems like Aiken is doing precisely the wrong things if his goal is to never be a politician. It's as though he said he never wanted to go to New York City and then bought a ticket to LaGuardia.
Or, more accurately, like he bought a ticket that had a very low chance of getting to LaGuardia. When rumors first emerged that he was thinking about running, I broke down the numbers, pointing out the various reasons that Aiken was unlikely to win the seat. I also spoke with Tom Jensen of North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling, who explained that, while Ellmers was vulnerable, Aiken was not a great candidate to run against her. "It’s a very rural district where being a pop star probably isn’t going to play that well," Jensen told me. "It’s a similar dynamic to when Ashley Judd was thinking about running from the Senate in Kentucky." Judd, wisely, decided not to run.
In other celebrity-turned-candidate news, Saturday Night Live's Victoria Jackson is running for County Commissioner in Tennessee. If she hasn't yet released her candidate video, we recommend this one: