Trump or Biden: Who Is Most at Risk From RFK Jr.’s Independent Run
Trump or Biden: Who Is Most at Risk From RFK Jr.’s Independent Run

By Jeff Louderback

When Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced he would run as an independent instead of remaining a contender for the Democrat Party’s 2024 presidential nomination, pundits immediately started debating about whether the candidate would take more votes away from President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump.

A series of recent polls show that Mr. Kennedy is gaining momentum and is having a mostly equal impact on both candidates.

A survey of registered voters conducted from Siena College and the New York Times released in early November 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 33 percent. The balance said they remained 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 is about 4.5 percent plus or minus for each state poll.

“Trump only retains significant leads in Nevada and Georgia. Arizona and Pennsylvania move from the Trump column to dead even. And Wisconsin and Michigan remain very tight,” Siena College Research Institute Director Dr. Don Levy said in a statement.

The same poll showed Mr. Kennedy leading President Biden and President Trump among voters under the age of 45 in those six states.

Mr. Kennedy registered 34 percent support among voters aged 18 to 29 compared to 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 is significantly ahead among independents.

“While 18 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans say they would back RFK, 39 percent of independents would back Kennedy, compared to 28 percent for Biden and 25 percent for Trump.”Mr. Levy said.

The results of that survey reflect a Nov. 1 study by Quinnipiac University that showed independents support Mr. Kennedy at 36 percent, President Trump at 31 percent, and President Biden at 30 percent.

Mr. Kennedy was the leading candidate for respondents between the ages of 18 and 36 at 38 percent, compared to 32 percent each for President Biden and President Trump.

Overall, the poll indicated that in a three-way race, President Biden garnered 39 percent, President Trump, 36 percent, and Mr. Kennedy, 22 percent. The poll surveyed 1,610 self-identified registered voters nationwide and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.

“With minority and younger voters seeming intrigued, Kennedy, for now, enjoys the kind of demographic support his charismatic father and uncles generated decades ago,” Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy said in a statement.

Mr. Malloy said he believes Mr. Kennedy is drawing support from younger voters because of his plan to introduce 3 percent mortgages funded by tax-free bonds.

“Every other generation was told if you work hard and live by the rules, you can finance a home. You can put money aside for retirement and raise a family with one job. There’s no one in my kids’ generation who thinks that applies to them,” Mr. Kennedy said at a recent campaign stop in Asheville, N.C.

“A lot of my voters are people who just have not voted, and they would not vote given the other two choices,” Mr. Kennedy added. “I think the choices people are getting right now aren’t choices that are exciting.”

David Carlucci, a Democrat campaign strategist and a former New York state senator, is skeptical that Mr. Kennedy will maintain his current momentum.

“I think that, when you look at the polls and the people supporting RFK Jr., it is more the anti-vaxxer Trump voters than anyone else. He’s a name they think they know, but they really don’t. When they get to know him, they won’t like him because of his vast conspiracy theory stances,” Mr. Carlucci told The Epoch Times.

“At the end of the day, when people go to vote, they will have to make a decision, hold their nose and vote for Biden or Trump,” Mr. Carlucci added.

Speculation is mounting that Democrats would like another candidate than President Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris, however, Mr. Carlucci noted that “it is already too late to qualify for the primary ballot in New Hampshire and Nevada.”

Self-help author Marianne Williamson and three-term Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota are the current challengers to President Biden for the party’s nomination.

Sen. Joe Manchin announced earlier this week that he will not seek another term in the Senate, but the West Virginia Democrat is regarded as a potential 2024 presidential candidate under the No Labels organization.

“I don’t think Manchin has the ability to excite enough Democrats nationwide to be a serious threat in the primary if he runs,” Mr. Carlucci said. “He likes to be talked about, but he has no pathway to victory.”

“Ultimately, I think most people would feel like they are throwing away their vote if they support Kennedy. The bigger fear I have, as a supporter of President Biden, is that people will decide to stay home and not vote.”

Brian Seitchik, a Republican strategist, told The Epoch Times that Mr. Kennedy will have a more detrimental impact on President Trump than President Biden if he is on the ballot in key swing states.

A vendor prepares to sell merchandise before a rally for President Donald Trump at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Ariz. on Feb. 19, 2020. (Caitlin O’Hara/Getty Images)

“RFK Jr. has spent a lot of time promoting what feels like more conservative-oriented positions. I think at the end of the day that will hurt Trump more simply because the type of person that will vote for Kennedy is more likely to be a Trump voter,” Mr. Seitchek said.

“The profile of RFK voters seems to be more Republican than Democrat.”

A Harvard CAPS/Harris survey published in October, found that Mr. Kennedy had a high favorability rating.

The survey indicated that 49 percent of the respondents had a favorable view of Mr. Kennedy, while 30 percent have an unfavorable opinion. President Trump received a 49 percent favorability rating, while 46 percent had an unfavorable view. President Biden saw a 45 percent favorability mark compared to 49 percent who had an unfavorable opinion.

“Media pundits are gonna tell you that we don’t have any chance and have given me a couple of first names. One of them is ‘long-shot candidate,’” Mr. Kennedy said in Philadelphia on Oct. 9 and at multiple campaign stops since.

“They say my impact is only going to draw votes from the other candidates. The Democrats are frightened that I’m gonna spoil the election for President Biden, and the Republicans are frightened that I’m gonna spoil it for President Trump. The truth is, they’re both right.”

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for President Trump’s campaign, said voters should be leery of Mr. Kennedy.

“Voters should not be deceived by anyone who pretends to have conservative values,” Mr. Cheung told The Epoch Times. “The fact is that RFK has a disturbing background steeped in radical, liberal positions.”

“Whether he’s a China sympathizer, denigrating gun owners, promoting business-killing green policies, or supporting on-demand abortion, an RFK candidacy is nothing more than a vanity project for a liberal Kennedy looking to cash in on his family’s name.”

Mr. Kennedy announced in April that he would challenge President Biden for the Democrat Party presidential nomination. He has generated wide-ranging support from conservatives, moderates, independents, and Libertarians throughout the course of his campaign, though he has not gained the same favor from many Democrats.

Campaign finance reports have shown that Mr. Kennedy is getting more support from Republican-leaning donors than Democrats.

For months, Mr. Kennedy was confronted with roadblocks from the Democratic National Committee, which he said was “rigging” the primary process to favor President Biden. On Oct. 9, he declared his candidacy for president as an Independent.

Before Mr. Kennedy announced he would run as an independent, the American Values 2024 political action committee that’s working to get Mr. Kennedy elected, commissioned a poll conducted by Zogby Strategies and released Oct. 2.

That study showed that if Mr. Kennedy ran as an Independent or third-party candidate in a race against President Biden and President Donald Trump, he would start at 19 percent compared to 38 percent for both President Biden and President Trump.

“Critics of independents and third-party candidates always claim that they split the vote and serve as a spoiler, but what we are seeing is that people are disillusioned with both major parties and they are tired of partisan politics,” American Values 2024 co-chair Tony Lyons told The Epoch Times.

“People are tired of being told what to do, what to think, and who to vote for by the Democrat and Republican parties, and they are open to an alternative candidate.”

Janice Hisle contributed to this report.

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