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Senator Mellencamp?

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The guy who put populist politics on the charts with a song title "Pink Houses" John Mellencamp performed at the White House last week, as part of a program titled: "In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement."

The Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame member sang the song "Jim Crow" with veteran folkie Joan Baez -- as well as a terrific song version of "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize" -- on a night that also featured performances by Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole, Yolanda Adams, the Five Blind Boys from Alabama and Bob Dylan, among others.

That was powerful company, but Mellencamp was up to it.

For the past quarter century, he has been penning and performing smart, often very political songs -- focusing on the farm crisis, economic hard times and race relations. He's been a key organizer of Farm Aid and other fund-raising events for good causes, and he's been a steady presence on the campaign trail in recent years, appearing at the side of numerous Democratic presidential candidates, including Barack Obama.

So, could Mellencamp perform in the U.S. Senate?

Could he be the right replacement for retiring Senator Evan Bayh, D-Indiana?

Forget the blah-blah-blah about celebrities in politics. We crossed that bridge decades ago.

The question is whether this celebrity makes the right connections with this state.

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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