West, a black intellectual who has a long history with both communities, believes he is well-positioned to attract these groups. But he is operating on a shoestring budget and with an unconventional campaign structure, raising questions about whether he has the means to make significant progress in the state.
“We are the only major candidate, I think, who brings some form of common sense and sensitivity to the suffering in Gaza. What strikes me is that the other three leading candidates are living in the Neolithic era when it comes to dealing with what’s happening in the Middle East,” West said in an interview. “They would bring us back and I’m the only one to move us forward.”
But as West begins to define the type of campaign he wants to run across the country, he’s still trying to assemble the right team to implement his vision.
The first-time candidate began his 2024 presidential campaign on the People’s Party ticket, before switching to the Green Party, and is now running as an independent. West has also since replaced campaign manager Peter Daou with four co-campaign managers.
The West team is now led by Anthony Karefa Rogers-Wright, who specializes in environmental and climate justice; Ceyanna Dent, a Midwest-based grassroots organizer; as well as former Bernie Sanders presidential campaign staffers Edwin DeJesus and Madeline Merritt.
In the jazz jargon that West regularly uses to describe his candidacy, the campaign is increasingly broadcast and free.
“I’m not an ordinary politician by any means,” West said. “Therefore, it’s about making sure we have people who are willing to be unorthodox and go against the grain, organizationally, internally, politically and morally.”
“We want to be like jazz, in terms of elevating all voices,” he added.
One of the strengths West brings to the campaign is his appeal to progressive groups. And he seems eager to use those connections.
West, who has participated in several pro-Palestinian protests in recent weeks, plans to make a stop in Dearborn, a city outside Detroit with a large Arab-American population and in collaboration with Jewish Voice for Peace. The city has seen several pro-Palestinian protests since the October 7 Hamas attack, and in 2021, Arab American advocates protested Biden visit at the local Ford plant for its stance on Israel and Palestine.
West will also travel to Flint, Michigan, to focus on the city’s water crisis and environmental justice issues, as well as stops at the University of Michigan and Michigan State to rally with students. West also plans to stop in the state’s isolated Upper Peninsula to visit indigenous people.
“By talking to Michignaders, we’ll be talking to almost the entire country at the same time,” said Rogers-Wright, West’s co-campaign manager. “This is a very critical condition. Whoever wins this state will become president.
“We are following the lead of young people and Arab Americans in a swing state who themselves said they would not vote for President Biden if the election were held tomorrow,” he said. “Members of the environmental justice community can say the same thing. »
The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
West is campaigning on a small budget. He raised just over $320,000 in about four months of campaigning. Compared to major party candidates and fellow independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the campaign is at a major financial disadvantage.
Still, the West is averaging about 3.8% in national polls in a four-way race that includes Biden, Trump and Kennedy, according to RealClearPolitics.
The biggest question for West is how many states he plans to put on the ballot. In recent interviews, West said at least 35 was possible, but a person close to his campaign operations said she was optimistic that it could exceed that number.
West said the campaign has the legal support of two attorneys who can help navigate the inevitable challenges third-party candidates face when trying to run for office, as well as the “collective support” of “brother” Ralph Nader and “sister” Jill Stein, both of whom ran for president outside of the two major parties over several election cycles. Stein announced last week that she would seek the Green Party nomination again in 2024.
There will also be rallies and events in all the states where West is seeking to run for office, starting with Utah, which has the first presidential nomination filing deadline for the general election.
West is also weighing his options for his vice presidential pick. Nominating a vice presidential candidate in advance is a requirement in some states for third-party candidates to gain access to the ballot. Rodgers-Wright said the campaign is paying more attention to female running mates in an effort to have a more representative list.
But the odds are stacked against the West. No candidate outside the two-party system has won the presidency since its creation in the 19th century. The last third-party candidate to win a state in a presidential election was “Dixiecrat” George Wallace in 1968.
Voters in swing states have also been less likely to vote for third-party candidates in recent presidential elections, according to a POLITICO analysis.
But West’s vision is that 2024 voters will feel differently about a “free” candidate like him.
“People are not only looking for leadership, but also statesmen,” he said. “They’ve had enough of these garden-variety politicians.”