Strategists suggest that Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s potential entrance into the 2024 presidential race as an independent candidate might disrupt the usual dynamics. Given the Kennedy lineage, RFK Jr., 69, could draw votes from both major party contenders.
Set to announce his third-party run on Monday, Kennedy seems to be distancing himself from his former Democratic allegiance, where some polls once ranked him at a significant 20 percent nationally against President Biden.
While going independent does present Kennedy with challenges, such as getting his name on all state ballots, it could be advantageous for him, according to Dave Wilson, a South Carolina-based Republican strategist. Kennedy’s environmental background and skepticism towards vaccines make him an appealing alternative for certain Democratic-leaning voters, especially when compared to the aging incumbent.
Dave Wilson believes Kennedy’s skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine might also attract some voters who would otherwise back the Republican frontrunner, ex-President Donald Trump.
Recent polls indicate a degree of voter fatigue with the idea of another Biden-Trump showdown. A survey from Marquette Law School on October 4 revealed that 16% of registered voters would either support a different candidate or abstain from voting altogether in such a scenario.
Republican strategist John Thomas concurs that RFK Jr.’s candidacy would likely draw from both sides but might pull more from Biden’s camp due to former President Trump’s fervent base. “Biden’s previous strategy of overlooking Kennedy won’t work if Kennedy goes independent,” notes Thomas.
Jason Roe, a former Michigan GOP executive director, views Kennedy’s independent move as strategic, opining that his chances within the Democratic Party were slim. Roe speculates that Kennedy might garner support from center-right voters. Simultaneously, another newly independent entrant, Cornel West, seems poised to appeal more to the progressive left dissatisfied with Biden.
However, Democrat strategist Brad Bannon doesn’t foresee Kennedy making a significant dent in Biden’s vote bank. Bannon suggests that candidates like Cornel West or a centrist No Labels group nominee might pose a more substantial challenge. Bannon highlights Kennedy’s anti-vaccine stance as a potential draw for some Republican voters.
Meanwhile, aside from his anticipated announcement in Philadelphia, Kennedy has been slated to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Las Vegas later this month.