By Jeff Louderback
While his effort to get on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia as an independent continues, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. hinted that he could run for president as a Libertarian.
During an interview with CNN’s Michael Smerconish that aired over the weekend, Mr. Kennedy was asked if there is a possibility that he will seek the Libertarian Party nomination. That option would likely assure him ballot access across the country as the Libertarian Party reached that objective in 2016 and 2020.
“We are talking to the Libertarian Party. I feel very comfortable with most of the values of the Libertarian Party, and like I say, we have good relationships. I’m talking regularly to libertarian groups. So, we’ll continue to do those talks,” Mr. Kennedy said.
Angela McArdle is the chair of the Libertarian National Committee. The party will hold its national convention from May 24 to May 26 in Washington.
Based on comments from Mr. Kennedy and Ms. McArdle, it’s possible that he could be the party’s presidential nominee.
Unlike Democrats and Republicans, the Libertarian Party selects its nominee based on votes from registered delegates at the national convention.
Mr. Kennedy met with Ms. McArdle before he announced that he would run as an independent last October.
“We’ve had a lot of good conversations and we’re on good terms. And I respect his decision to want to go independent. Though libertarians really admire the strong position he took against mandates and lockdowns, and so we’re going to stay on friendly terms and see what happens,” Ms. McArdle said.
Mr. Kennedy is traveling around the country at voter rallies in his quest to get on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Since declaring his candidacy for president in April 2023, he has encountered multiple obstacles with ballot access.
In an interview last August, when asked if he would consider running as an independent or a third-party candidate, Mr. Kennedy told The Epoch Times that “I’m a Democrat.”
He said that he was running for president to restore the party to the values it represented when his uncle, John F. Kennedy, was president and his father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968.
Mr. Kennedy considered New Hampshire a major battleground state in the Democratic primary.
New Hampshire was historically the first primary in the nation, after the Iowa caucus. Early last year, at the urging of President Joe Biden, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted to replace New Hampshire with South Carolina as the first primary.
On Oct. 9 in Philadelphia, standing in front of the National Constitution Center with the words “We the People” etched into the building by his side, Mr. Kennedy announced that he would run for president as an independent and leave the Democratic primary, which he said was “rigged” by the Democratic National Committee.
As an independent, getting on the ballot in every state and the District of Columbia is grueling, time-consuming, and expensive, Mr. Kennedy said, estimating that the effort will cost $15 million to $18 million.
Guidelines for securing a ballot spot differ in many states, as do deadlines. North Carolina and Texas, for example, require independent candidates to file by mid-May. Multiple states have summer deadlines.
Some states have varying guidelines about the number of signees in different parts of their state.
Legal challenges from Democrats and Republicans intent on keeping Mr. Kennedy off the ballot are possible. Signatures can be challenged after they’ve been submitted to election offices in multiple states.
Mr. Kennedy is officially on the ballot in Utah. This past week, he announced he had gathered the required number of signatures to appear on New Hampshire’s general election ballot in November.
Mr. Kennedy’s team collected around 5,000 signatures in one day in the Granite State, according to a statement from the campaign. The state requires 3,000 valid signatures from registered voters.
American Values 2024 is a Super PAC supporting Mr. Kennedy. Last month, the organization said that it planned to spend more than $10 million to get on the ballot in 10 states, including California and Texas.
Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, and New York are the others.
The Super PAC, which is separate from the campaign, has hired three firms to collect voter signatures in Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan.
To date, Mr. Kennedy’s campaign is relying on a “grassroots army” of volunteers to get on the ballot, press secretary Stefanie Spear told The Epoch Times.
‘We the People’ Party
Earlier this month, Mr. Kennedy said that his campaign had filed paperwork in six states to create its own political party.
The move was made to get his name on the ballot in those states with fewer voter signatures than is required for candidates not affiliated with a party.
In five states—California, Delaware, Hawaii, Mississippi, and North Carolina—Mr. Kennedy’s campaign formed the “We the People” party. The “Texas Independent Party” was also established.
Filing for political party status in the six states reduced the number of signatures required for Mr. Kennedy to gain ballot access by about 330,000, according to a statement by his campaign.
To get on the ballots of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Mr. Kennedy noted, his campaign must collect about 1 million valid pen-and-paper signatures through petitions across the country.
“Effectively, this means closer to 1.5 million to ensure that enough are valid,” Mr. Kennedy said.
In a press release on Jan. 16, Mr. Kennedy’s campaign said that multiple states give independent presidential candidates two methods of achieving ballot access—as an individual candidate or as the nominee of a new party.
The two processes often require different numbers of signatures, the campaign explained.
Mr. Kennedy’s We the People party must collect and submit at least 75,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot in California. He would have to gather 219,403 valid signatures as an independent.
“In most states, the individual candidate process requires fewer signatures. However, in some states, party ballot access requires fewer signatures and is therefore the most direct path to ballot access in those states,” the campaign noted.
Once the new party gains ballot access, it can nominate a candidate.
George Washington is the only independent president in American history.
An independent or third-party candidate has not won a state and gained electoral votes since George Wallace in 1968. The time is right for an independent or third-party candidate not only to win states and collect electoral votes but to prevail in the general election, Mr. Kennedy said.
Mr. Kennedy has called ballot access laws for independent and third-party candidates “among the worst forms of voter suppression in America today” and said that state officials should work together to “streamline and standardize ballot access procedures.”
Ballot access restrictions “artificially prop up the two-party duopoly,” Mr. Kennedy added, noting that a Gallup poll conducted in September 2023 showed that 63 percent of American adults agree that “the Republican and Democratic parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that another choice is needed.”
When he announced that he would run as an independent last October, Mr. Kennedy said he was “declaring independence” from “corporations that have hijacked our government” along with Wall Street, big tech, big pharma, big agriculture, the “mercenary media,” military contractors and their lobbyists, “cynical elites who betray our hope and amplify divisions,” and “the two political parties.”
“There have been independent candidates in the past. This time, it will be different. This time, the independent will win,” Mr. Kennedy said.
Sees Path to Victory
There is a path to victory in the general election, Mr. Kennedy insists.
At multiple campaign stops this month, he has pointed to a Gallup poll showing that political independents (41 percent) now outnumber Republicans and Democrats (28 percent each).
A Gallup study in 2022 indicated that the rise of independents is driven by Generation X and millennial generation voters. The report showed that around half of millennials and more than four in 10 Generation X voters identify as independents.
“It was never unusual for younger adults to have higher percentages of independents than older adults. What is unusual is that as Gen X and millennials get older, they are staying independent rather than picking a party, as older generations tended to do,” Gallup analyst Jeff Jones said in a statement.
Mr. Jones noted that the trend is related to “the disillusionment with the political system, U.S. institutions, and the two parties, which are seen as ineffectual, too political, and too extreme.”
Mr. Kennedy has centered his platform around unifying the country and healing divisiveness.
At voter rallies, he also notes that his favorability ratings are better than President Biden and President Trump, and he is ahead of both candidates among Americans under the age of 45 in six battleground states.
In a Gallup poll conducted from Dec. 1 to Dec. 20, 2023, Mr. Kennedy led all presidential candidates with a 52 percent favorability rating. President Trump followed with 42 percent, President Biden 41 percent, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley 33 percent, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis 32 percent.
Mr. Kennedy and Ms. Haley led in the least favorable category at 34 percent compared to 58 percent for President Biden, 57 percent for President Trump, and 52 percent for Mr. DeSantis.
A survey of registered voters conducted by Siena College and The New York Times released in early November 2023 indicated that in six battleground states, Mr. Kennedy would receive 24 percent of the vote in a three-way race, while President Trump would get 35 percent and President Biden would get 33 percent.
The balance said they were undecided or wouldn’t vote.
The poll included 3,662 likely voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The margin of sampling error varies among the state polls, from plus or minus 4.4 percentage points to plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.
That survey shows Mr. Kennedy leading President Biden and President Trump among voters under 45 in those six states.
Mr. Kennedy registered 34 percent support among voters aged 18 to 29 compared with 30 percent for President Biden and 29 percent for President Trump.
For voters aged 30 to 44, Mr. Kennedy led with 31 percent while President Biden and President Trump each collected 30 percent.
Mr. Kennedy has said that he believes he will be on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Speculation is mounting on whether that would be as an independent or a Libertarian.
He is scheduled to speak at the Libertarian Party of California’s annual convention on Feb. 24 in Costa Mesa, first at a luncheon and then as part of a presidential candidate panel with Libertarian candidates Dr. Micheal Rectenwald and Mike ter Maat.
Suffolk University Political Research Center Director David Paleologos told GB News America that Mr. Kennedy’s polling numbers show “a groundswell of people who are disgusted with both political parties and that he ”would keep an eye on his campaign.”
Impact on Other Candidates Weighed
If Mr. Kennedy runs as a Libertarian, the move could impact President Trump more than President Biden.
“The Libertarian nominee traditionally takes away from the Republican nominee, which will be Trump probably,” Mr. Paleologos said, noting that Republicans and Democrats should “keep an eye” on Mr. Kennedy’s campaign and also on Jill Stein, who is the Green Party nominee.
The Green Party typically takes votes away from the Democrat in a presidential race, Mr. Paleologos said, adding that so far in 2024 Ms. Stein is polling in the low single digits.
“Kennedy is in the double digits. He’s the person to keep your eye on.”