Now that Tom Petty has asked Michele Bachmann to stop playing his classic track "American Girl" on the campaign trail, the Minnesota congresswoman would be wise to steer clear of lefty lyricists and join fellow Republicans in their canny embrace of the Swedish disco of '70s pop icons, ABBA.
John McCain's quest for the presidency may have been unsuccessful, but it showcased the Arizona senator as the pioneer in steering clear of American music in favor of Europop. The faux-maverick's moment of truth came after he had to apologize to progressive activist Jackson Browne for appropriating the underdog theme of "Running on Empty." How did the Arizona senator handle this setback? He adroitly shifted gears, begging voters to "Take a Chance on Me."
Fast-forward to the 2012 campaign and candidate Newt Gingrich. The erstwhile House Speaker had to think fast when his cell phone accidentally went off during a key speech, revealing ABBA's 1977 monster smash "Dancing Queen" as his ringtone. Gingrich, who never met a hyperbole he didn't like, doubled down, explaining that Mamma Mia, the hit musical featuring all ABBA tunes all the time, was "an amazing film."
The good news for the other GOP hopefuls is that they need look no further than the ABBA canon when selecting their own theme music. Not only did Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad record enough hits to accommodate the multitude of declared and undeclared contenders, its catalogue tends to eschew the messy ironies of such choices as the darkly-themed "American Girl" -- which may allude to a student's suicide -- and Bruce Springsteen's scathing "Born In The USA," which The Boss nixed when Ronald Reagan's 1984 campaign tried to appropriate it for the "patriotic" implication of its title.
ABBA may offer something for every Republican, if candidates take care to avoid pitfalls along the path. Weak front-runner Mitt Romney must resist the temptation to choose "The Winner Takes It All." What needs to happen is for him to ditch his 2008 choice, Elvis's "A Little Less Conversation" -- which, after all, is about sex -- and opt for "Money, Money, Money," an uplifting tune tailor-made for the kind of mega-mogul-oriented fund-raising so integral to Mitt's idea-free effort. (Bonus: the song's subtitle, "Abba dabba do," supplies the common touch that's thus far eluded the Mittster.)
Ron Paul, the perpetual non-starter candidate, could connect with ABBA's less well-known "Another Town, Another Train." For pizza magnate Herman Cain, who doesn't seem to exist in the known universe, "Dream World" might do the trick. And then there's sad Tim Pawlenty, who shows promise on paper but has achieved no traction after a year of tireless campaigning. At this point, TPaw's hopes for a breakthrough could well center around an emergency "SOS."
As for Bachmann, ABBA's supremely catchy "Waterloo," evoking the Iowa town where she formally announced her candidacy this week, would have been perfect if not for her John Wayne/John Wayne Gacy gaffe. Now, of course, that choice would only serve as her own Waterloo. Michele, please look past the tempting "Cassandra" and focus on the fact that you've raised a couple dozen kids by choosing the safe, generic "Mamma Mia."
Picking the right ABBA theme could also be a game-changer for GOPers still on the fence. Rick Perry, who has conservatives swooning, is blessed with two good choices -- "Head Over Heels" and "Lay All Your Love on Me." Rudy Guiliani, who spent $50 million to garner one delegate last time around, can jump-start his late start with, "Gimme Gimme Gimme." And Chris Christie, who has all but sworn he won't run, could in one stroke counter all the naysaying with "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do."
ABBA-loving GOP candidates need to prepare talking points for the talking heads who will inevitably charge musical hypocrisy, given that Bjorn et al hail from Sweden, land of universal health care and other socialist evils. The key here is to get permission from Talking Heads honcho David Byrne to play that group's great concert film, Stop Making Sense, at every campaign stop.