(CNN) Kanye West’s secretive political operation has no shot of landing him a spot in the Oval Office, but he and the Republican operatives propping him up could still wreak havoc in a handful of battleground states come November.
“Kanye West will not garner enough voters to become president. But he can garner enough voters to determine the outcome of this election,” said Terrance Woodbury, a Democratic pollster and partner at HIT Strategies.
Any third-party candidate can pose a risk in a tight election, and strategists say that’s even more true when the candidate comes with name recognition and nationwide fan base. West isn’t holding campaign events or even filing required financial disclosures. He’s keeping his campaign organization under wraps. And aides are focused almost entirely on getting his name onto the ballot.
So far, the music mogul has only made the ballot in 11 states (including Tennessee), making it mathematically impossible for him to become the next president. But those states include potential battlegrounds like Colorado, Iowa and Minnesota.
West’s campaign took two blows on Thursday. A judge booted him from the ballot in Virginia, saying the campaign fraudulently or improperly collected signatures. And in Arizona, a judge blocked West from appearing on the ballot.
Political operatives on both sides of the aisle said West’s campaign appears to be little more than an effort to skim support from Democratic nominee Joe Biden and boost President Donald Trump’s reelection odds. One source told CNN that GOP operatives believed they had the Trump campaign’s blessing to aid West’s efforts.
“I think, unfortunately, he’s being used by these Republicans,” said Quentin James, founder and president of The Collective PAC, which aims to elect more Black candidates. “It’s really sad and, you know, we wish Kanye the best in getting his mental health under control. But again, this is not what we want to see in politics. We want to see Black voters and their voices heard at the ballot box. Not by voting for Kanye West, who has no shot right to bring forth new ideas to win the White House.”
When a reporter from Forbes recently pointed out to West that he has no shot at the Oval Office and appears to be a spoiler candidate, West replied, “I’m not going to argue with you. Jesus is King.”
Critics said the effort to prop up West’s campaign looks particularly unseemly given West’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The disorder is marked by swings between mania and depression and the rap superstar has said publicly he does not take medication for his illness.
“Taking this man who needs help and propping him up for their own good and for their own gain, it’s disgusting,” said mental health advocate Bassey Ikpi, who is the author of “I’m Telling the Truth But I’m Lying,” and lives with bipolar disorder. “That’s what they’re doing with Kanye. They’re not considering him a human being. They’re considering him a pawn.”
A representative for West did not respond to a list of questions from CNN regarding West’s campaign.
CNN’s Fredreka Schouten, Kristen Holmes and Ethan Cohen contributed to this report.