Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s decision to join the 2024 presidential race as an independent candidate threatens to upset the balance of the contest. Kennedy’s internal polling suggests he likely would have a more detrimental impact on Donald Trump’s candidacy — the two appeal to similar constituencies.
The Kennedy name gives him instant recognition, which Politico argues could help him net the largest share of the vote for an Independent presidential candidate since Ross Perot won 19% of in 1992 with over 19 million votes. Whether Perot’s candidacy elected Bill Clinton that year or not remains a matter of controversy.
Kennedy Locked Out of Democratic Primary
Kennedy opted to run as an independent after he realized that the Democratic Party primary was geared to support Joe Biden and his voice would not be heard in the party’s presidential contest.
Kennedy has consistently received between 10%-20% support. Some Democrats still have not forgiven his uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, for his 1980 run against Jimmy Carter. They claim that he did lasting harm to the Democratic Party and weakened Carter against Ronald Reagan.
Polling has shown Kennedy with 14% support in a head-to-head match with Biden and Trump.
Perot showed up to the debates in 1992 with double-digit support. Kennedy might show that level of support next year and still not appear on the stage, because the Republican National Committee is not onboard with the Commission on Presidential Debates and its debate criteria. The commission has been perceived by Republicans as biased in favor of the Democrats.
Kennedy Family Feud
Kennedy’s own siblings have come out against him. His siblings Rory Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend signed an open letter posted on social media in which they claimed he shares their father’s name but not much more. They claimed that he did not share Robert F. Kennedy Sr.’s “values, vision, or judgment.”
“We denounce his candidacy and believe it to be perilous for our country,” the Kennedy siblings said.
Could Kennedy Win Biden Voters?
They previously denounced his candidacy and took exception to his position on the COVID vaccine. This same stance has cost him support with Democrats and won him support from Trump voters.
“Kennedy’s greatest opening with Democratic-leaning voters is their lack of enthusiasm for Biden’s reelection campaign. A significant number of Democrats and Biden 2020 voters don’t think the president should be seeking another term and say they are open to supporting other candidates,” Politico said. “In a poll released last week by Republican firm Echelon Insights, Kennedy drew 16 percent of voters who said they voted for Biden in 2020, compared to a slightly smaller number, 10 percent, of Trump voters. Overall, Kennedy was backed by 13 percent of Democrats, 9 percent of Republicans and 23 percent of independents on the ballot test.”
“There’s also other data that suggests Biden supporters might be easier to peel off, particularly if a third-party candidate like Kennedy actually became viable … Only 38 percent of those who picked Biden said their choice was about supporting him; a majority, 58 percent, said they were voting against Trump more than for Biden.”
John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst 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, The National Interest, National Review Online, 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 for his reporting.