He’s also blown past the first deadline to tell federal regulators how he’s using campaign money and has only hit the campaign trail for a rally once. But in Arizona, one of the last remaining presidential battlegrounds where he could still qualify for the ballot, the West campaign is gathering signatures.
In Ohio, Curt Hartman, the Cincinnati lawyer representing West in the lawsuit the campaign filed this week to get on the Ohio ballot, served as a delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention and is the Republican nominee for a county judicial seat. Hartman did not respond to messages.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has concluded that West’s nominating petition and statement of candidacy did not match the petitions that were signed by voters.
And, even as state officials rebuff West’s efforts to get on the November ballot, West’s campaign continues to push for ballot access.
In Arizona, a presidential battleground where candidates face a September 4 deadline to qualify for the ballot, a signature collector with the West campaign approached students this week on the campus of Arizona State University. In an interview with CNN, a student described one worker as evasive when asked about the candidate’s identity.
The West campaign did not response to interview requests this week
Trump campaign aides have denied any effort to coordinate with West, who fervently supported Trump before announcing his own bid in in July.
“I like Kanye very much,” Trump told reporters earlier this month, but added: “No, I have nothing to do with him getting on the ballot. We’ll have to see what happens.”
West has either missed the deadline, did not file or has had his application denied in 33 states and Washington, DC.
Arizona State law student Matt Rein told CNN he was approached earlier this week by a signature gatherer as he walked to class in Phoenix.
Rein said when he asked what the signature was for, the man said only that it would help get an independent candidate on the ballot in Arizona.
After a several follow-up questions from Rein, who is the founder of The Dem Hype House, a hub for liberal discourse on TikTok, Rein said the worker first described the petition as helping Tidball before finally acknowledging Tidball was on the ticket with West.
Rein said he declined to sign and walked away, but the canvasser pursued him, saying that although West was unlikely to prevail, his presence on the ballot could help take away the “reality star vote” from Trump.
“He really buried the lead with the whole Kanye thing,” Rein told CNN. “It wasn’t until I pressed him multiple times, at which point he said it was for Kanye West.”
“At the minimum, it’s very shady.”
Rein said several his classmates were also approached to sign petitions this week.
Potential to backfire
Despite the sales pitch by the signature-gatherer in Arizona, most activists on the Democratic side and outside observers doubt West could end up having much of an effect on the race even in the states where his name does end up appearing on the ballot.
An Ipsos/Reuters poll conducted earlier this month showed only 2% of registered voters chose West as their preferred candidate when given the option.
Matt Liebman, president of the Voter Protection Project, a Democratic group, told CNN his organization expects to spend more than $5 million this year on efforts to elect voting rights champions and boost voter turnout in November. The West campaign effort, he said, was likely to fall flat — whatever its true aims.
“Honestly, Black voters across the country, they’re not going to be fooled by this,” Liebman said.
Liebman suggested that, as voters read and heard more about the controversies surrounding West and allegations of GOP shenanigans, the result could be a net-positive for the Biden campaign.
“I think the Kanye West thing could actually be helpful in the sense that it’s bringing more attention to the race and folks are like, ‘This is just another crazy tactic,’ ” Liebman said. “It’s just another distraction. It’s more chaos and I think people are tired, they’re tired of the chaos.”
For some Democrats, there are still raw memories of 2016, when they beat Trump in the popular vote but lost the presidency, and 2000, when Ralph Nader ran an independent campaign that many Democrats blamed for undercutting support for former Vice President Al Gore. They fear West’s name on the ballot in a swing state could, if the margins are as tight as expected, attract just enough support to tilt the race.
But the political climate in 2020 is very different, noted Robert Shapiro, a professor and former chair of the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, who said that West’s campaign is unlikely to attract the disillusioned voters who were…