Is an RFK presidential bid good for the United States?

2023 10 09T190923Z 865608748 RC20P3A0BM01 RTRMADP 3 USA ELECTION RFK Large
Robert F Kennedy Jr. announces his entry to the 2024 presidential race as an independent candidate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. October 9, 2023. REUTERS/Mark Makela

In a speech delivered in Philadelphia on Monday, environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. declared he is running for the United States presidency as an independent candidate, challenging President Joe Biden in the Democratic primary. Kennedy emphasised his commitment to challenging the two-party system that he believes has failed to offer meaningful presidential options.

The Arguments:

Kennedy says he should stand because he believes Biden has damaged the economy and America’s core value of freedom through his interventionist policies. However his opponents say RFK is unsuited to be president because of unscientific views on COVID and other issues. Democrats worry that his presence on the ballot could strip votes from Biden, favouring Donald Trump.

Two recent polls have shown Robert F. Kennedy Jr. garnering 14 percent of the support, with Trump at 40% and Biden at 38%. The polls show that Kennedy is positioned to become the most influential independent presidential candidate in over twenty years. Whether he can translate this level of support into actual votes remains uncertain.

The Facts:

Kennedy’s candidacy could create complications in the 2024 election by potentially siphoning votes away from both Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump in key states, as observed by political analysts. Originally a Democrat, his campaign seems to be drawing more support from Republicans than Democrats by a significant margin.

Historically, independent candidates have encountered challenges in gaining substantial support in presidential elections, with the exception of Ross Perot’s 1992 campaign. Perot won 18,9% of the popular vote in these elections, becoming the first independent candidate to receive so many votes. No independent or third-party candidate has won an electoral vote in more than half a century, nevermind the 270 votes required to claim the presidency.

Kennedy appears to have funding from a super PAC which includes billionaires who could potentially contribute to narrowing the funding gap in the coming months and make his campaign more visible in the media landscape.

Pivotal states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, and Arizona are key to electoral success. Voters who are not affiliated with either major party are expected to play a significant role in determining the outcome.

In a joint statement issued on Monday, Kennedy’s brothers conveyed their concerns, stating that while Bobby shares the same name as their father, he does not align with the same values, vision, or judgment, and they unequivocally denounced his candidacy.


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