If anything shows the weakness of Joe Biden among Democrats, it’s the fact that Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s insurgent campaign stood at 19 percent in the Fox News poll. An Emerson College poll had him at 21 percent.
National Review notes that no incumbent president who faced a strong primary challenger has won re-election in recent memory. Presidents Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson had poor showings in their respective primaries in 1952 and 1968 and opted not to seek a second term.
Democrats have expressed concern that Biden, who will be 86 at the end of a second term, would be too old.
Time For a New Face
It shows that many traditional Democrats find Kennedy’s anti-corporate and anti-censorship message appealing. He has hearkened back to many of the same themes that typified Democratic Party campaigns throughout the 20th century.
“I felt like I wanted my children to grow up in our country with the same pride and with the same love of our country and the same idea that we had this idealism, these opportunities for our country. We had these communities that are filled with dignity and enrichment, and we were an exemplary nation,” Kennedy said during an interview on ABC News. “And those things are being lost, and for a lot of reasons. And really because of the rise of corporatism in this country and this addiction we have to war.
“My party also is becoming a party of war, the party of censorship, the party of fear, and the party of the Neocons and Wall Street, and I just felt that I was in a unique opportunity to change that,” Kennedy continued.
Kennedys in History
Kennedy’s uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, waged a similar insurgent campaign in 1980 against then-President Jimmy Carter, winning several primary contests including the New York Primary. Like Biden, Carter had weak polling at the start of the 1980 campaign, hovering in the thirties. Sen. Kennedy had about 40 percent support among Democrats in December 1979.
Carter’s challenger in the general election that year, Ronald Reagan, ran an unsuccessful campaign for the GOP nomination in 1976 against President Gerald Ford, who finished out the remainder of Richard Nixon’s term.
Incumbent Party Challenger
Kennedy’s campaign is the first serious challenge against an incumbent president since Pat Buchanan ran against President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
The Kennedy name and the environmental attorney’s association with his famous father Robert F. Kennedy Sr. gives him a boost in the all-important name recognition category.
Kennedy is unlikely to prevail because the Democratic Party’s rules tend to stack things in favor of the party leadership’s preferred candidate.
That proved true in 2016 when the Democratic National Committee (DNC) worked to undermine Socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in his bid against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Emails released by Wikileaks proved that “seven key” DNC officials conspired to block Sanders.
Republicans have also looked at supporting coverage of Kennedy’s campaign to undercut Biden.
Polling shows that Biden likely will remain the odds-on favorite to win a second term despite the historical trend because former President Donald Trump is even less popular than he is.
Kennedy’s race, however, could reinvigorate the populist anti-corporatist wing of the Democratic Party. His message mirrors that of Pat Buchanan’s, which led to the rise of the Tea Party and of Donald Trump in the wake of the disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan.
John Rossomando was a senior analyst for Defense Policy and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award in 2008 for his reporting.