Stars Who Shined at the Republican National Convention (Photos)

Kid Rock will jam for Mitt Romney in Tampa this week. See other celebrities who stumped for the GOP.

Kid Rock will jam for Mitt Romney in Tampa this week. From Ray Charles to Angie Harmon to John Wayne, see other celebrities who stumped for the GOP.

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Kid Rock

Back in February, Mitt Romney made a pilgrimage to the Michigan home of Kid Rock to ask for his help in the state’s primary. “He’d written down some questions for me,” Romney said of the meeting. “First of all, he said, ‘Mitt, if you’re elected president, will you help me help the state of Michigan?’ And I said I would. He said, ‘If you’re elected president, will you help me help the city of Detroit?’ I said I would.” Several days later, Kid Rock performed at a campaign rally for Romney, and this week he will be one of the acts headlining the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Also rocking out for the GOP will be Journey, Trace Adkins, and the Oak Ridge Boys, who will perform Monday’s night’s national anthem. Presumably, Twisted Sister will not be appearing in Tampa after lead singer Dee Snider issued a statement denouncing Paul Ryan’s use of the song “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” “There is almost nothing he stands for that I agree with,” Snider said,  “except the use of P90X.”

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John Rich (2008)

After performing the national anthem at the 2008 Republican National Convention with Gretchen Wilson and Cowboy Troy, John Rich (of the country duo Big & Rich) played “Raisin’ McCain,” his anthem for the GOP candidate. “I’m a young conservative guy, and there aren’t many of us around,” Rich said while campaigning for the Arizona senator that fall. “I respect McCain for his heroism over the years. He stands for the things I value, and there aren’t many young conservatives like me who make it into the media, so I’m trying to do my part.”

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Angie Harmon (2004)

Rizzoli & Isles star Angie Harmon insists she’s not a rarity in Hollywood—a celebrity who is vocal about being a Republican. “I promise you there are a lot more Republicans in L.A. than people think. Believe me I got all the phone calls of support. I know there are,” she told Fox News last year. “I might not understand everything a Democrat or liberal thinks but, hey, let’s be honest, I don’t understand some of the things the Republicans think. But that doesn’t make me some dumb hick that doesn’t have the right to live here.” In 2004, Harmon made a very public statement showing her support for the GOP: she and her husband, former New York Giant Jason Sehorn, introduced war heroes at the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. In 2008, Harmon announced her support for John McCain and has endorsed Mitt Romney this year.

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Dwayne Johnson (2000)

Did the Rock really support “The Shrub”? That’s what many liberal wrestling fans were asking in 2000 when Dwayne Johnson appeared at the GOP convention in Philadelphia. It turned out that the appearance was part of the WWE’s “Smackdown Your Vote!” program, which encouraged voter registration. (It also came out that the People’s Champ had registered only a few days before the convention.) But some conservatives weren’t happy with the Rock’s appearance—where he introduced Speaker of the House and former wrestling coach Denny Hastert—and it wasn’t just because he was also scheduled to make an appearance at the Democratic National Convention. Rather, some critics, such as L. Brent Bozell III, were concerned that WWE programming was not consistent with Republican values.

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Ray Charles (1984)

Although Ray Charles had supported Democrats during the civil-rights movement in the 1960s, by the ’80s he had developed close ties to the Reagan White House through his work on disability issues. And in 1984, he performed what many consider the definitive version of “America the Beautiful” at the Republican National Convention in Dallas. As President and Nancy Reagan looked on wistfully (along with George and Barbara Bush), the TV cameras cut to delegates with tears in their eyes. Two years after the performance, Charles was honored by Reagan at the Kennedy Center for his contribution to American music.

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Charlton Heston (1972)

A Democrat for most of his life—he supported Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy for president, and was one of the few actors who spoke out for the civil-rights movement—Charlton Heston grew more conservative by the 1970s. In 1972, Heston played a highly visible role at the GOP convention in Miami when he led the delegates in the Pledge of Allegiance. And by the end of the next decade, Heston’s politics shifted even more to the right as he became chairman of the National Rifle Association.

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Sammy Davis Jr. (1972)

At the 1960 Democratic convention, Sammy Davis Jr. endured one of the most painful moments of his career—when he was introduced to the delegates, he was booed. What angered the audience was that the black entertainer was engaged to a white woman, Swedish actress May Britt. “Those dirty sons of bitches,” Frank Sinatra told his Rat Pack pally. “Don’t let ’em get to you.” But it clearly did. Twelve years later, Davis was a Republican, and at the GOP convention in Miami, he caused further controversy when he introduced Richard Nixon as “the president and the future president of the United States of America.” He then shocked Nixon—and many Americans—when he gave the president a hug.

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John Wayne (1968)

When asked why John Wayne’s support was valuable to Richard Nixon during the 1968 presidential election, Republican strategist told journalist Joe McGinniss, “Wayne might sound bad to people in New York, but he sounds great to the schmucks we're trying to reach...The people down there along the Yahoo Belt." Accordingly, Wayne was given a starring role during the 1968 Republican National Convention, addressing the delegates on the opening day. Years later, when Nixon was in the middle of the Watergate scandal, Wayne sent him a telegram of support: "Dear Sir, nobody has lost faith," he wrote. And Nixon appreciated Wayne’s kindness: "Dear Duke, it was good to receive your words of encouragement at this time."

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Nat King Cole (1956)

At the 1956 Republican National Convention in San Francisco—where Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon were nominated for a second term—Nat King Cole addressed the crowd and sang “That’s All There Is to That.” Four years later, he switched parties and sang at the Democratic National Convention to support John F. Kennedy. When Kennedy defeated Nixon, Cole was invited to perform at the inaugural.

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Frederick Douglass (1876)

Thirteen years after the Emancipation Proclamation, former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass was invited to speak at the 1876 Republican convention, where he admonished the party of Lincoln for not doing enough for black Americans. “What does it all amount to if the black man, after having been made free by the letter of your law, is to be subject to the slaveholder’s shotgun?” Douglass asked. “The real question is whether you mean to make good to us the promises of your Constitution.” Twelve years later, at the 1888 Republican convention in Chicago, Douglass became the first African-American to be nominated for President of the United States. He received one vote.