Earlier this year, there were predictions that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. – the son of the late U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy – could threaten President Joe Biden’s chances of reelection next year. Kennedy, who initially sought to mount a primary challenge against Biden, has instead opted to run as an independent.
There will be no showdown of Irish-American Catholic candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, and instead, Kennedy could prove to be a lucky charm for Biden. A new poll found that Biden would benefit in a three-way race that includes Kennedy and former President Donald Trump.
According to the NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, Biden comes out on top with 44 percent support, 37 percent for Trump, and 16 percent for Kennedy. The remaining three percent were undecided.
Biden’s seven-point advantage over Trump narrowed to just three points in a two-way race – a rematch of 2020 – with 49 percent backing Biden, 46 percent behind Trump, and five percent undecided. In a head-to-head match-up, each candidate received about 91 percent of the support from their respective parties, with six percent support from the opposing parties.
Declaration of the Independents
In a two-way Biden vs. Trump race, 49 percent of independent voters went for Trump, while 43 percent backed Biden. Yet, here is where the Kennedy factor could come into play – as he is increasingly popular with that voting bloc.
Biden’s support with independents dropped nine points to 33 percent, but Trump’s support fell by 15 points to 34 percent.
Moreover, Biden lost the support of five percent of Democratic voters, down to 86 percent from his party; but Trump’s loss was double, and he fell to just 81 percent of potential GOP voters.
Kennedy Hits a Note With Some Republicans
Although Kennedy initially followed in his father’s and uncle’s footsteps in running as a Democrat, some of his views were actually embraced more by the GOP than Democrats. That includes his opinions on Covid-19 and vaccines.
As an independent, Kennedy is an option for voters turned off by Biden’s age and Trump’s legal woes.
“Although it’s always tricky to assess the impact of a third-party candidate, right now Kennedy alters the equation in Biden’s favor,” Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said in a statement.
“What this does speak to, however, is that about one in six voters are looking for another option, especially independents,” added Miringoff.
Third-Party Candidates Can Be Spoilers
Third-party candidates can be a bane for a campaign, as historically they’ve been shown to pull away votes typically more from one of the major parties than the other. Such was the case in 2000, when Green Party candidate Ralph Nader likely contributed to George W. Bush narrowly defeating Al Gore.
Likewise, there is still an argument that Ross Perot – who received the most votes ever by a non-major-party candidate (Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose/Progressive Party excluded) – played a major role in Bill Clinton defeating George H.W. Bush in the 1992 election.
The Green Party’s Jill Stein, who received enough votes to crack the “Blue Wall” states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, paved the way for Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
In 2024, Trump’s reelection chances – if he is the eventual GOP nominee – could be blunted by a third-party run from Kennedy.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.