He may no longer wear a red MAGA hat, but Kanye West could wind up helping President Trump’s re-election campaign, at least unofficially.
Some notable figures with links to the Republican Party appear to be enthusiastic about the billionaire rapper and music producer’s desultory bid for president in swing states like Wisconsin, where Trump must win if he’s to have any hope of a second term.
If that sounds crazy — well, maybe it is.
“The connection raises questions about the aims of the entertainer’s effort and whether it is regarded within the GOP as a spoiler campaign that could aid President Trump, even as those close to Mr. West have expressed concerns about his mental health as he enters the political arena,” reports the New York Times.
Trump critics naturally see Republican support for West as a ploy to divert Black voters away from Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
In 2016, Trump’s campaign tried much the same thing, almost certainly encouraged by Trump friend and political adviser Roger Stone, a convicted felon.
Earlier this year, the president commuted Stone’s prison sentence.
It’s unclear if the effort to suppress Black votes worked four years ago, but of course Trump did win in the Electoral College.
If pollsters are right, however, there’s little chance suppression efforts will work this time: In one recent national poll, West got just 2% support.
Wisconsin state Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat, accused Trump of “cheating,” reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Nonetheless, Republicans are hoping West can help the Trump cause.
The Times cites “at least four people” — there are almost certainly more — who’ve been active in GOP politics and who are now working to get West’s name on the ballot in several states.
One is attorney Lane Ruhland, a former legal counsel for the Wisconsin Republican Party who has worked for Trump on several occasions; just last week, she was in court representing the Trump campaign.
On Tuesday, Cameron Joesph, a Vice News reporter in Madison, spotted Ruhland dropping off a bundle of signatures needed to help put West’s name on the November ballot.
Vice News then contacted Ruhland by phone.
“In a short phone conversation … Ruhland declined to comment — and hung up when pressed on whether and why she was working for West’s campaign,” Vice says.
Another Republican operative, Mark Jacoby, is an executive of a company called Let the Voters Decide, “which has been been collecting signatures for the West campaign in three states” — Ohio, West Virginia and Arkansas.
The Times notes that Jacoby “was arrested on voter fraud charges in 2008 while he was doing work for the California Republican Party, and he later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.”
West, formerly a staunch Trump supporter, told Forbes magazine last month that he was “taking the red [MAGA] hat off,” and called the Trump campaign “one big mess.” He added that he still likes “Trump hotels and the saxophones in the lobby.”
West also said he has never voted.