Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Chris Christie and RFK Jr: The ‘Kamikaze’ Canidates for President?

Chris Christie. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Chris Christie. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

American elections are usually exhausting, enervating, and expensive. The U.S. is unique among democracies with its flood of private money, vanity candidates, and the reality of the constant campaign. Donald Trump, for example, has been running for president almost without stop since the summer of 2015. 

The campaign for 2024 is no different. The frontrunners are well established already, a staggering sixteen months before the election even happens.

The 2024 election will almost certainly be a repeat of 2020. The same two men are running — former President Trump and current President Joe Biden.

Both are campaigning as basically the same people they were last time. The same outcome — a close but clear Biden victory — also seems likely.

For a brief moment, it looked like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis might give Trump a run for his money in the GOP primary. But DeSantis lacks the unhinged, say-anything charisma which the Republican base loves so much in Trump. DeSantis offered policy achievements as an alternative to Trumpian shenanigans, and voters, unsurprisingly, are choosing Trump, the made-for-TV culture warrior.

Why Are Christie and RFK Even in the Race?

The novelty this time is coming from two unexpected sources — former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the GOP primary, and Kennedy family scion Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in the Democratic primary. Neither has any realistic chance of winning. It is not even clear why they are running.

Christie at least seems to have a purpose — to wound Trump enough to prevent his re-election. Chris Christie was the first serious Republican officeholder to endorse Trump in 2016. This was calculated to land Christie a major position in the Trump administration. But it came at a steep cost to Christie’s reputation. Trump’s clownishness and harshness have long put GOP officials in an awkward position. Christie could have just avoided comment, as so many of his fellow Republicans did.

Instead, he spent years defending Trump. His posture as a straight-talker from New Jersey disappeared under his contortions to defend Trump’s worsening behavior. And yet Trump gave him nothing. He was locked out of the new administration. Trump even gave him Covid in 2020.

Trump’s long disdain for his own sycophants has finally returned to hurt him. Christie seems to realize that he will be remembered primarily as Trump’s lackey, and he now wishes to change that reputation. His run against Trump is futile. He will never win, and this suicide course will alienate him from the GOP base forever. But he will likely never run again. He is thinking of his legacy now.

If Christie’s quixotic run is to burnish his damaged reputation, RFK’s is worsening his. Like Christie, RFK has no chance to win. Like Christie, his appeal is actually greater to the other side. Democrats are elated that Christie is sharing inside information of how gonzo Trump’s governance was. Republicans, conversely, share RFK’s conspiratorial view of politics — on vaccines, Ukraine, media manipulation, and so on. Indeed, RFK has been a mainstay on right-wing media this year. Finally, like Christie, RFK’s biggest support seems to come from the other side — those who think he can cripple the frontrunner. 

RFK’s primary asset is his name. He has never held office; most of his career has been in advocacy work. He is not obviously a politician. But for those Democrats who remember the 1960s, the Kennedy name carries the nostalgia of better times — before Vietnam, Watergate, racial tensions, and so on. Some of this is mythic. Assassinations put a halo around RFK’s father and uncle. But its resonance among Democratic primary voters is undeniable.

Can Chris Christie or RFK Throw Their Primaries?

The most important question about third-party or vanity candidates in U.S. elections is always whether they can throw the election. The most famous recent example of this is Ralph Nader’s Green Party run for president in 2000. In the Florida state election that year, Nader pulled several percentage points of leftist voters away from Democratic candidate Al Gore. That tilted Florida, and thus the national election, to Republican George W. Bush.

In the case of Chris Christie and RFK, both could cripple their parties’ frontrunners with a good primary showing – sort of like kamikaze candidates for president, doing damage to the frontrunners they dispise. If Christie were to unite the anti-Trump GOP vote, which DeSantis is trying and failing to do now, he could hurt Trump enough to damage him in the general election. RFK could do the same in the Democratic primary. And if either really exceeds expectations, they could launch a third-party bid in the general election, which would split the party frontrunner’s vote much as Nader did.

This is a long shot. I imagine both will exit the race as unlamented spoilers early next year. But if they are to impact the race, throwing the election is how they will do it.

Dr. Robert E. Kelly ( is a professor in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University and 19FortyFive Contributing Editor.

From 19FortyFive

Donald Trump Just Proved How Stupid He Is

Donald Trump Just Got Caught in a Big Lie

Joe Biden Is Starting To Scare Everyone

Written By

Dr. Robert E. Kelly (@Robert_E_Kelly; website) is a professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University. Dr. Kelly is now a 1945 Contributing Editor as well.