Kennedy’s Independent Bid Sparks New Tensions in 2024 Race

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, has shaken up the 2024 presidential race by dropping out of the Democratic primary and announcing his intention to run as an independent candidate. Kennedy, who had been challenging President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, made the surprise announcement on Monday at a campaign event in Philadelphia, where he invoked his family’s legacy and said he wanted to offer a “new vision” for America.

“I have decided to end my campaign for the Democratic nomination and run for president as an independent,” Kennedy said, drawing cheers from his supporters. “I believe that our country needs a leader who can unite us, not divide us. A leader who can inspire us, not scare us. A leader who can bring out the best in us, not the worst.”


Kennedy said he was disillusioned by the “corrupt” and “rigged” system that favored the establishment candidates and ignored the voices of millions of Americans who were dissatisfied with the status quo. He said he wanted to run a campaign that was based on “principles, not politics” and that appealed to voters across the political spectrum.

“I am not running against Joe Biden or Donald Trump. I am running for the American people,” Kennedy said. “I am running to restore our democracy, to protect our environment, to end our endless wars, to reform our criminal justice system, to heal our racial wounds, to rebuild our middle class, to expand our health care, to secure our borders, and to restore our moral leadership in the world.”

Trump team attacks Kennedy as a “radical, far-left Democrat”

Kennedy’s decision to run as an independent was met with swift criticism from former President Donald Trump and his allies, who accused him of being a “liberal parading in conservative’s clothing” and a “spoiler” who would help Biden win re-election. Trump, who is widely expected to win the Republican nomination for a third time, issued a statement on Monday blasting Kennedy as a “disaster” and a “loser”.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is just another radical, far-left Democrat who is trying to fool the American people with his fake independent bid,” Trump said. “He has a disturbing background steeped in radical, liberal positions. He is anti-coal, anti-oil, anti-gas, anti-fracking, anti-nuclear, anti-military, anti-police, anti-wall, anti-America. He is a puppet of the globalist elite and the radical environmentalists who want to destroy our country and our sovereignty.”

Trump also claimed that Kennedy was running as an independent because he knew he had no chance of beating Biden in the Democratic primary and that he was only doing it to hurt Trump’s chances of winning in 2024.

“He is a sore loser who can’t accept the fact that he is a failure and a nobody,” Trump said. “He is running as an independent because he knows he can’t win the Democratic nomination against Sleepy Joe Biden, who is doing a terrible job as president and is destroying our country with his weak and incompetent leadership. He is running as an independent because he wants to help Biden win by taking votes away from me and my millions of loyal supporters. He is running as an independent because he hates me and he hates America.”

Trump’s campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung echoed Trump’s remarks and said that the Trump team was prepared to go on the offensive against Kennedy and expose his “liberal agenda”.

“Voters should not be deceived by anyone who pretends to have conservative values,” Cheung told CNN after Kennedy’s announcement. “The fact is that RFK has a disturbing background steeped in radical, liberal positions. He is an environmental activist who has opposed fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and pipelines. He is a vaccine skeptic who has spread misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines. He is a social justice warrior who has supported defunding the police, abolishing ICE, and granting amnesty to illegal immigrants. He is a globalist who has criticized America’s role in the world and advocated for open borders, free trade, and multilateralism.”

Cheung said that the Trump team had already compiled a dossier of opposition research against Kennedy and that they would launch a series of ads and attacks against him in the coming weeks.

“We are not going to let RFK get away with his vanity project,” Cheung said. “We are going to expose him for what he really is: a liberal wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Independent candidates add new uncertainty to 2024 race

Kennedy is not the only independent candidate who has entered the 2024 race, adding new uncertainty and unpredictability to the outcome of the election. Cornel West, the progressive scholar and activist who was poised to claim the Green Party’s nomination, revealed last week that he too would run as an independent, citing his dissatisfaction with the party’s leadership and direction. West, who has been a vocal critic of both Biden and Trump, said he wanted to offer a “radical alternative” to the “corporate duopoly” that dominated American politics.

“I have decided to run for president as an independent candidate, because I believe that the Green Party has lost its way and has become a tool of the establishment,” West said in a video statement. “I believe that we need a radical alternative to the corporate duopoly that has betrayed the American people and has sold out to the interests of Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, and the oligarchy. I believe that we need a movement that is based on love, justice, peace, and democracy.”

West said he would run a grassroots campaign that would focus on issues such as Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, a living wage, free college, reparations for slavery, ending mass incarceration, ending foreign wars, and abolishing the Electoral College. He said he hoped to attract voters who were disillusioned with both major parties and who wanted to see a “revolutionary change” in the country.

“I am not running to win or to spoil. I am running to speak truth to power and to challenge the status quo,” West said. “I am running to inspire the people who have been marginalized, oppressed, and forgotten by the system. I am running to ignite a moral and spiritual awakening in this country that will transform our society and our world.”

While West’s candidacy is seen as more likely to hurt Biden than Trump, given his appeal to progressive voters who might otherwise support the Democratic nominee, Kennedy’s candidacy is seen as more unpredictable and potentially damaging to both candidates, depending on how he positions himself and how he performs in different states. According to recent polls, Kennedy has a significant base of support among independent voters, who make up about a third of the electorate, as well as some moderate Democrats and Republicans who are dissatisfied with Biden and Trump.

According to a CNN/ORC poll conducted in September 2023, Kennedy would receive 15% of the vote in a three-way race with Biden and Trump, while Biden would receive 42% and Trump would receive 40%. The poll also showed that Kennedy would draw more support from Trump than from Biden, especially among white voters, suburban voters, and college-educated voters. However, the poll also showed that Kennedy’s support varied widely by region and state, with him performing better in some swing states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, and Arizona than in others such as Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas.

The presence of independent candidates on the ballot could also affect the outcome of the election by changing the dynamics of the Electoral College, which determines the winner based on the number of electoral votes each candidate receives from each state. In 2016 and 2020, Trump won the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden respectively. However, in 2024, independent candidates could potentially win some electoral votes themselves or prevent either major party candidate from reaching the 270 electoral votes needed to win. In that case, the election would be decided by the House of Representatives, where each state delegation would have one vote.

The prospect of independent candidates influencing or disrupting the 2024 race has also prompted some speculation about another potential third-party bid from No Labels, a well-funded group that advocates for bipartisanship and centrist policies. No Labels has been considering launching its own ticket in 2024, with possible candidates including former Republican Governor John Kasich of Ohio and former Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. No Labels has said that it would only run a ticket if it believed that neither major party candidate could win a majority of the popular vote or if it believed that both major party candidates were too extreme or divisive.

No Labels has also said that it would only run a ticket if it could secure ballot access in all 50 states and if it could participate in the presidential debates. However, both of these conditions are difficult to achieve for third-party candidates, given the legal and logistical hurdles involved. No Labels has said that it would make a final decision on whether to run a ticket by early 2024.

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