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Nearly 1,000 people gathered at Philadelphia’s Independent Mall Monday as Robert Kennedy, Jr. announced the launch of a third-party bid for President.
Kennedy, who was previously challenging Biden for the Democratic nomination, struggled to gain substantial ground ahead of the primaries.
Still, Kennedy’s current poll numbers could make him one of the most formidable third party candidates in decades. In a recent poll conducted last week, Kennedy received 16% support among 2020 Biden voters and 10% support among Trump voters.
It’s almost certain that Kennedy’s name recognition and family history play a large role in his base of popularity.
RFK, Jr. is the son of Robert F. Kennedy (Bobby) and the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, Jr. Both his father and his uncle were giants in American politics and the Democratic party in the 1960s. Both were tragically killed in political assassinations that shook the country.
At Monday’s campaign rally, supporters chanted “Bobby”, while holding up signs that read “Bring Back Camelot”, a nod to the family’s political dynasty.
However, one particular group remained noticeably absent from the chorus of supporters: the rest of the Kennedy family.
Robert Kennedy, Jr’s siblings denounce their brother’s bid for president
In a statement released on social media Monday, Robert’s siblings, Kerry Kennedy, denounced his decision to run as an independent.
“The decision of our brother Bobby to run as a third party candidate against Joe Biden is dangerous to our country,” the statement reads.
“Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment.”
Kennedy’s four siblings went on to say they “denounce his candidacy and believe it to be perilous” for the country.
At his event, Kennedy was joined on stage by numerous US and tribal nation leaders.
Former US Representative and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich was the first on the stage to endorse Kennedy at the event. He was also joined by Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council member Lewis Grassrope and former New Jersey Assemblyman Jamel Holley.
Robert Kennedy, Jr. has built a platform over the last year for his anti-vaccine stance during the COVID pandemic. Kennedy has appeared multiple times on FOX News and other networks, claiming “there’s no vaccine that’s safe and effective.”
Kennedy also drew backlash for claiming the COVID virus was “ethnically targeted” to spare people of Jewish and Chinese descent. Many, including Kennedy’s own family, slammed his statement as antisemitic.
In a nearly hour-long speech, Robert Kennedy, Jr. called for Americans to “declare independence” from the two-party system.
“I’ll rebuild America’s strength from the inside out,” Kennedy said.
He claims his candidacy terrifies “the elites” because it represents “a populist movement that defies left-right divisions.”
Kennedy claimed he is fighting for “what we all want”, which, he says is “liberation from a system that robs us of our wealth, our health, our hope, our patriotism, our ideals, our freedoms and ultimately our sense of ourselves as a good and capable people.”
Some Democrats worry third party bid could swing 2024 election to Trump
Despite unusually high support for a third-party candidate, it is almost impossible that Robert Kennedy would win the presidency.
America’s Electoral College system relies on a state-by-state, generally winner-take-all system where the candidate who receives 270 electoral votes wins the Presidential election, regardless of who wins the popular vote.
This leaves some Democrats concerned that Kennedy could be a spoiler candidate like Ralph Nader in 2000 or Gary Johnson and Jill Stein in 2016. In both of those elections, the third party candidates pulled away enough votes from the Democrat to swing the election in favor of the Republican.
And in 2024, all current polling suggests the Republican who most likely to benefit from a Robert Kennedy, Jr. presidential campaign is Donald Trump.