The sudden and unexpected announcement by Democratic Senator Evan Bayh that he would not run again for his seat in Congress has understandably elicited some unusual reactions over the past couple of days.

But it’s probably a safe bet that nobody was expecting a grassroots campaign to convince Indiana native John Mellencamp (formerly Johnny Cougar, formerly John Cougar, formerly John Cougar Mellencamp) to throw his hat into the ring to fill the seat vacated by Bayh, whose family name carries a lot of weight in the Hoosier state.

While it’s not exactly clear where the idea started, there’s no question that it’s been spreading like wildfire, with popular political blogs like The Daily Kos enthusiastically throwing their support behind the campaign. And they’re not alone.

Someone who thought the idea was a winner started a Facebook campaign, “Draft John Mellencamp for Senate!” to convince the singer to take up politics. And on Monday, famed Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert tweeted, “John Mellencamp (D-Ind.) has a nice ring to it.”

Perhaps the best indication that the man who wrote both “Suckin’ on a chili dog outside the Tastee Freeze” and “Lord this must be my destination / ’Cause they told me when I was younger / ‘Boy you’re gonna be president’” might just have a real chance of winning a seat in the United States senate comes from Fox, ahem, News, whose pundits have already begun publicly attacking the singer.

This morning on “Fox and Friends,” Fox talking head Steve Doocy felt the need to warn viewers who might be fans of Mellencamp and entertain the idea of voting for him.

“Really very liberal, according to one report I read this morning he has come out publicly: ‘Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama not liberal enough for me, I want more,’” Doocy said. (Don’t you love how it’s a “report” with no attribution?)

Actually, to set the record straight, Mellencamp did not say that. Had Mr. Doocy bothered to do any research, he would have discovered that, in fact, it was the singer’s publicist, Bob Merlis, who said in 2008 about Obama and Clinton, “Neither candidate is as liberal as he would prefer, but he’s happy to contribute what he can.”

And what does Mellencamp, who for much of his career was the owner of the nickname “Little Bastard” because of his rowdy behavior and fiery temper, think of the idea?

Well, The Indianapolis Star reports that “Mellencamp, through a spokesman, kept [rumors] alive by declining to issue any statement to dispel them.” So that’s not a ‘yes’ on plans to run for the seat. But it’s not a ‘no’ either.

If you can get past the initial silliness of the idea of a man who writes rock songs for a living being elected to Congress, it’s not really as nuts as it sounds.

As a former Hoosier myself, I can verify that Mellencamp is enormously popular in Indiana, where he’s almost something of a folk hero – despite his decidedly pronounced slant to the left. In and around Bloomington, near his home, sightings of and encounters with the singer earn you bragging rights.

And then there’s Farm Aid. Despite growth in manufacturing and other industries, Indiana is still primarily an agricultural state. While most farmers are unquestionably conservative, it’s hard to tell if their natural political leanings would outweigh the gratitude many undoubtedly feel toward the singer for his efforts over the past 25 years.

In the end though, it may be Mellencamp’s past antics more than his politics that keep him out of the senate.

In 1986, the singer told Rolling Stone, “When I was high on pot, it affected me so drastically that when I was in college there were times when I wouldn’t get off the couch. I would lie there, listening to Roxy Music right next to the record player so I wouldn’t have to get up to flip the record over. I’d listen to this record, that record. There would be four or five days like that when I would be completely gone.”

Bob Merlis, Mellencamp’s publicist, told me that the singer is not commenting on the matter at this time. Whatever happens though, the next few days are certain to be a very interesting time for John Mellencamp and the citizens of Indiana.