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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Could RFK Jr. pull in votes from both sides of the political spectrum?

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary on Oct. 9 and will run as an independent in the upcoming 2024 election.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is not done yet.

Kennedy, son of Robert Kennedy and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, dropped out of the Democratic primary in his challenge to President Joe Biden for the nomination, and will instead run in the general election as an independent.

Kennedy will now attempt to appeal to voters who are dissatisfied with both former President Donald Trump and Biden, and there are plenty who fit that category.

“The Democrats are frightened that I’m gonna spoil the election for President Biden,” Kennedy said during his Oct. 9 announcement. “The Republicans are frightened that I’m gonna spoil it for (Former) President Trump. The truth is they’re both right … My intention is to spoil it for both of them.”

So, is Kennedy a serious candidate?

If you asked me this question four months ago, I would’ve said absolutely not. However, as we get closer and closer to election day, the threat of him taking more votes from Biden and Trump increases. That being said, Kennedy won’t be president. There is no scenario in which Kennedy reaches the 270 electoral college vote mark. That I can tell you with full confidence.

However, Kennedy will definitely have an effect on the outcome of this election –– just not in the way you may think. Although a candidate donning the famous “Kennedy” last name is surely going to attract some Democratic voters, his anti-vaccine stance appeals to the right-wing of the electorate.

Kennedy has already received praise from Republican politicians and figures like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Roger Stone and even Trump, regarding his statements on vaccine mandates and his support for defunding vaccination programs.

Outside of that, he’s very liberal. Over his career he’s been an environmental lawyer and activist. Just in the past year, Kennedy supported the Green New Deal, fought against the building of the Keystone Pipeline and supported increased taxes on the wealthiest 1% of Americans, per The Hill.

Kennedy plans to give reparations to Indigenous people. “Under a Kennedy administration, historic wrongs done to Native Americans will be addressed and made right,” according to the Kennedy 2024 campaign website. Considering the Republican reaction to programs with the intent of financially compensating the descendants of slaves, I’m not sure that will go over well.

Currently, Kennedy’s approval rating among Republicans dwarfs that of his with Democrats. If Democrats didn’t immediately dismiss him because of his stances on vaccine mandates, I could easily see a lot more Democrats looking towards Kennedy.

There is a very long and consistent record of liberal politics attached to the Kennedy name, and he plans to continue building that rapport as president.

America is divided and tensions are high between the two sides of the electorate. An independent running on the basis of uniting the country will surely pull in some votes. An anti-establishment guy like Kennedy is tailor-made to entice disgruntled swing voters who are pissed off about everything. And in today’s world climate, there’s tons of things to be pissed off about.

Kennedy has framed himself as an outsider populist candidate, while still associating himself with his father and uncle every chance he gets. He can try to cling on to the success of his elders, but Kennedy’s campaign has been regarded as “dangerous to our country,” in a statement from four of his siblings released on Oct. 9. So in that regard the Kennedys want nothing to do with him politically.

Ultimately, I think a Kennedy bid could help both candidates.

Republicans still have an overwhelmingly favorable view of Kennedy, and he might be the right candidate to pull GOP voters away from Trump. Yes, there are plenty of Democrats who are not happy with a Biden second term, but they are certainly willing to bite their tongue and vote for him if Trump is on the ballot. Kennedy is just not the right guy to steer those blue votes away from President Biden, which could help him secure a second term.

On the contrary, Kennedy still could very well help Trump back into the West Wing. It just gives him more pathways to win. When voters start to realize Kennedy is sometimes even more to the left on issues than Biden, it’s going to turn off Republicans who will ultimately crawl back to Trump.

Think of it this way: if the Kennedy campaign does an excellent job of appealing to the discouraged and angry part of the electorate (similar to the Trump campaign in 2016), I could see him pulling one state off the board. With these polls already being dangerously close, if the stars align and Kennedy wins a single state, there is a possibility that neither Trump or Biden would be able to reach 270 electoral votes.

If that happens, the House of Representatives would be able to pick the president, with each state delegation receiving one vote. With the Republicans holding the majority of state delegations, Trump would be elected the 47th president.

But that won’t happen –– hopefully. If Democrats come out to vote against Trump the way they did in 2020, a Kennedy spoiler scenario is unlikely to occur.

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