Robert F. Kennedy Jr: Can He Win The Presidential Election? – Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent campaign started promisingly last week.
Ditching the party long associated with his family was a bold step. And what is big news, initial polling suggests RFK Jr. may secure enough support to land a spot on the presidential debates next year, a feat not achieved by a third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992.
At one point, Perot was leading the polls. A dramatic dropout – based on unevidenced claims of Republican agents interfering with his daughter’s wedding – severely damaged his chances of victory. Nevertheless, Perot recovered to amass a respectable 19,743,821, or 18% of the vote, in that year’s election.
We can only wonder how the businessman would perform had he remained in the race throughout 1992. No matter, he proved that a successful, independent campaign is possible in modern America, something Kennedy is looking to emulate.
Populism Is Popular
Kennedy is running a populist campaign under the slogan “declare your independence”. A staunch critic of mandatory vaccinations, Kennedy has promised to “spoil” the election for likely nominees Biden and Trump.
In an election which a polarized America is dreading, RFK offers a middle ground between two unpopular candidates. He’s claimed that the modern United States features “a cushy socialism for the rich and this kind of brutal, merciless capitalism for the poor” – an alternative to the clearly capitalist Trump and the arguably socialist Biden. He supports gun control, but has vowed not to “take people’s guns away”. He’s criticized the President for events which led to Russia’s full-scale of Ukraine, but described Vladimir Putin as a “monster” and a “thug.”
For voters who were fearful that they’ll be voting for the candidate they dislike least, Kennedy offers an optimistic alternative. Eight years of Trump/Biden has not progressed the country; a new alternative just might.
The Realities Of Politics
Both Biden and Trump know Kennedy can take away votes from each other, as well as themselves. That, one must believe, led to repeated claims that “a vote for Kennedy is a vote for Biden/Trump”, playing on voters’ fears that their least-liked candidate would win by voting elsewhere.
In such a polarized country, Kennedy is strongly reliant on independent voters, as well as disgruntled Democrats and Republicans. It’s a tough challenge, particularly as independents are not loyal to each other in the way that blue or red voters are to their party.
To win the election, RFK must be leading his rivals come the presidential debates. If he lags behind either Trump or Biden, they can easily claim that he provides an easy pathway for the other’s less desirable presidency.
There’s also the media to consider. Kennedy’s views may seem smart, but smart does not sell in politics. The President will receive coverage automatically, while Trump makes headlines every day of the week. For Kennedy to win, he truly must bustle his way into a media spotlight which is all-but fully occupied.
A Kennedy presidency is possible. But it will be tough. He needs to emulate Perot and lead the polls by next year, securing him the media attention and dismissing any claims that he’s merely taking away votes from the Republicans and the Democrats.
Nevertheless, his campaign is one to watch, and adds a new dynamic to an increasingly interesting presidential election.
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
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