The music that plays at campaign rallies as candidates take the stage usually only lasts for a few seconds, but their song choice can speak volumes about their campaign message and how they want to be perceived. For Republicans running for president next year, they’ve chosen songs with themes of patriotism, fearlessness and hometown values.

Former President Donald Trump walked out to Lee Greenwood’s 1984 “Proud to be an American” at his campaign announcement late last year at Mar-a-Lago. A longtime staple in his campaign playlist, he also walked out to the track at his 2020 campaign announcement. For his 2016 campaign announcement, down the escalator, though, Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” played.

Young previously asked Trump to stop using his music at rallies, a problem Republican candidates sometimes run into when playing songs from liberal pop stars. Former Vice President Mike Pence played it safe with the reliably Republican Kid Rock, walking out to his 2010 song “Born Free” at his rally in Iowa. It’s dad rock, and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, used the same song during his 2012 presidential campaign.

2024 Republican presidential candidate walkout songs:


Trump: Lee Greenwood, “Proud to be an American.”


Haley: Survivor, “Eye of the Tiger.”


Scott: Gap Band, “Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me).”


Pence: Kid Rock, “Born Free.”


Christie: Bruce Springsteen, “No Surrender.”


DeSantis: Rick Derringer, “I Am a Real American..”


Hutchinson: Chris Stapleton, “Arkansas.”


Burgum: Ben Gallaher, “Every Small Town.”

Songs from the 1980s are especially popular among candidates this cycle. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley used Survivor’s 1982 “Eye of the Tiger” at her first campaign rally, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., walked out to the Gap Band’s 1980 song “Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)” at his announcement rally. At his announcement town hall event in New Hampshire, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie used “No Surrender” from New Jersey’s own Bruce Springsteen. The track is an album cut from Springsteen’s 1984 album “Born in the U.S.A.”

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After his announcement on Twitter Spaces, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis used the same walkout song as pro wrestler Hulk Hogan: Rick Derringer’s “I Am a Real American,” which appeared on the the 1985 WWE soundtrack “The Wrestling Album.” Derringer told Mel he set out to write the “most patriotic song ever” when he wrote the track, and it’s also been used by Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich, he said. Among the qualities of a “real American,” according to the lyrics, are 1. fighting for the rights of every man, 2. fighting for what’s right, and 3. fighting for your life.

Songs like “No Surrender” and “I Am a Real American” suggest candidates want to come across as tough and as fighters, unsurprising considering how combative political culture can feel. But other candidates picked songs that played up the virtues of “flyover country.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson played Chris Stapleton’s “Arkansas” at his announcement rally in Bentonville. A love letter to Arkansas, the song is off the Grammy winner’s 2020 album “Starting Over” and describes the Ozark Mountains as the “top of the world.” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum used Ben Gallaher’s “Every Small Town” at his first rally, a song about pride for small towns with cornfields, churches and flags “flyin’ high 365.”

Not every candidate did a traditional announcement rally with walkout music. Venture capitalist Vivek Ramaswamy and radio host Larry Elder both announced on their campaigns on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Campaign music once consisted of songs about candidates, but presidential campaigns have increasingly used popular music since the 1970s. Political speech can be divisive, but pop songs are an easy way to send a political message in a nonpolitical, nonconfrontational way.

This year’s Republican candidates have picked songs that reflect their values and desired persona, and their song selection shows they’re hoping to appeal to voters through love of country, a willingness to fight and values that reflect rural, conservative experiences.