Kanye West has gone from visiting the Oval Office to potentially considering a run for it. What he does could consign the man he visited — Donald Trump — to being a one-term president.
That wasn’t necessarily Twitter’s reaction on Saturday night, after the 43-year-old rapper, fashion mogul and all-around cultural superstar announced he was going to be running for president this cycle.
“We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States!” West tweeted on the Fourth of July, putting an American flag emoji before the exclamation point and appending the hashtag “#2020Vision.”
We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States 🇺🇸! #2020VISION
— ye (@kanyewest) July 5, 2020
It’s not clear how he intends on getting on the ballot — or even if he intends on doing so. The only person whose name closely matches the artist’s in the FEC database, according to The Hollywood Reporter, is a Green Party candidate identifying themselves as “Kanye Deez Nutz West.” Assuming, not unsafely, that this isn’t him, CNN notes West has missed the independent candidate filing deadline for filing in many states.
However, ‘Ye has one supporter in billionaire Elon Musk, recently adopted by conservatives as one of their own thanks to his threat to move a vehicle production plant to Texas from California given the Golden State’s sluggishness in reopening.
“You have my full support!” tweeted the Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur in response to West’s announcement.
You have my full support!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 5, 2020
The assumption is that disaffected black voters might flock to West as opposed to Joe “You Ain’t Black” Biden. Biden has had the Democratic nomination sewn up for a month, but doesn’t have the best track record with voters of color, after all, given his track record of working with segregationists and helping author the 1994 crime bill that’s blamed for high incarceration levels among African-Americans.
Kanye West went from endorsing Trump to claiming he’d run against him —an announcement that benefits the president to the degree it spotlights Biden’s need for black voters & his potential weakness with young voters https://t.co/0m4PUO6s6a
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) July 5, 2020
— Kaya Jones (@KayaJones) July 5, 2020
That’s two very different voices — Marc Caputo of Politico and the Trump campaign’s Kaya Jones, formerly a vocalist in the Pussycat Dolls — who believe that West would take votes away from Joe Biden if the run is for real.
While that’s the general assumption, Forbes’ Andrew Solender says “the available data suggests that’s not the effect a West run would have.”
“A run by West would be far more likely to result in tipping the scales for one candidate than West himself becoming president,” Solender wrote in an article published Sunday, noting that elector-rich states like New York, Texas and North Carolina have already seen their deadlines for getting on the ballot pass. Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma and South Carolina have deadlines that West is unlikely to meet, either.
“That would make just 375 electoral votes available – a difficult jumping-off point in the race to 270,” Solender writes.
“But high-profile 3rd party candidates have held major influence over the results of presidential races, such as businessman Ross Perot, who garnered 19% of the national popular vote in his 1992 run. Perot has been etched in history as a spoiler who cost Republican George H.W. Bush, a fellow Texan, a second term as president–though some suggest that legacy is overstated.”
If West were a spoiler for anyone, Solender writes, it would likely be Donald Trump.
He cites two polling numbers for this. The first is from a Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey earlier this year that showed Trump has a small but significant following among the voting demographic West would likely draw best from: Black men under 50, who supported Biden over Trump by a 70 percent to 17 percent margin.
Political analyst Rachel Bitecofer, who rose to prominence after accurately predicting the House vote in the 2018 midterms, wrote in a Twitter post that these younger voters were why the Trump campaign wanted West in the race — because “he can still siphon off 10,000s of thousands of votes via write-in bc he’s a celeb. He doesn’t need ballot access!”
“This is esp true among young black men, who in polling are a softer demo for Biden/Dems,” she said.
This is esp true among young black men, who in polling are a softer demo for Biden/Dems https://t.co/mUneRtuken
— Rachel “The Doc” Bitecofer 📈🔭🍌 (@RachelBitecofer) July 5, 2020
But Solender’s piece had an answer for that.
“Even if that held true, polling suggests that not all of those votes are Biden’s to lose,” he wrote.
That’s because the people who still hold West in esteem for his political views, at least after his turn right, could be those younger Trump supporters. West’s new persona — decidedly Christian and not aligned with the Democrats — isn’t exactly Biden-friendly.
There hasn’t been much polling of how black Americans see West, given the fact he wasn’t expected to be a presidential candidate this cycle. That said, a CNN poll from May of 2018 found that while 12 percent of Democrats approved of West’s comments on politics, 67 percent disapproved. Republicans were split on the matter, 35 percent to 35 percent.
You don’t need fresh polling to see where this is going, either.
All Democrats and their surrogates need to do is flash footage of Kanye West in the Oval Office meeting with President Trump for black, liberal-leaning voters to come back home. Meanwhile, Republicans are going to have a harder time convincing their share of the younger black vote that Trump is materially different from West.
While it can be done, doing it requires sacrificing resources that would ideally be diverted elsewhere — a decidedly unfavorable prospect considering what almost everyone concedes, at this point, is an uphill re-election climb for Trump.
It’s healthy, I suppose, for the Democrats to believe that West is worth attacking. The odds are that his entering the race isn’t a harbinger for disaster for Biden, however. Whether it is for Trump remains to be seen.
Remember, Kanye West is first and foremost is in the business of Kanye West — and it just so happens he has a new album coming out soon.
Depending on how seriously he takes this, he could only take in tens of thousands of votes in some states. Given how the 2016 race turned out, though, that could be enough to have conservatives very worried.
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