Asked To Describe RFK With One Word, Dems Use Crazy, Dangerous & Insane
Steve Bannon, Tucker Carlson and some other MAGAts have been behind RFK, Jr’s presidential run. Aside from some excitement in Magadonian, it’s all but petered out. A couple of days ago, the NY Times reported that RFK Jr-- having grifted all he could as a Democratic candidate— is now teasing the idea of running as an independent. This 2-minute video, hints he’s about to make a significant change, denouncing “both political parties.”
The fact that some Republicans believe it would be advantageous to Trump if Kennedy embarks on a third-party run has raised questions about whether anyone in the former president’s world has encouraged it.
But Kennedy has in recent months become far more popular with Republicans than he is with Democrats. His campaign in the Democratic primary has been supported by Republicans: David Sacks, a donor for DeSantis, hosted a fund-raiser for him in June.
While Democrats are nervous that any third-party options would hurt Biden, it’s not clear from whom Kennedy would draw more votes if he qualified for the ballot in key battleground states.
Over the years, third-party candidacies have been a focus of Roger Stone, Trump’s longest-serving political adviser.
“I predict RFK abandons the rigged Democrat nominating process and runs as an Independent,” Stone wrote on Sept. 24 on Twitter.
Yesterday Aaron Blake looked a little deeper and predicted RFK’s independent run could backfire on the Republicans who, transparently and cynically have promoted and financed it. It’s been a bust and “there is plenty of reason,” wrote Blake, “to believe that a third-party bid could hurt Donald Trump more than Biden. There is no good polling that tests a Kennedy third-party bid. What we do know is that Republicans like Kennedy a heck of a lot more than Democrats do. That was true pretty shortly after he launched his campaign in April, and the gap has now grown into a chasm. The latest polling from Quinnipiac University shows that Republicans like Kennedy by a 30-point margin, 48 percent favorable to 18 percent unfavorable. Democrats, meanwhile, have developed an overwhelming distaste. The Quinnipiac poll shows just 14 percent have a favorable opinion of him, compared with 57 percent who have an unfavorable one. Democrats never particularly liked Kennedy, despite what you might have been led to believe [by Fox News]. But he’s gone from 14 points underwater (more unfavorable than favorable) with them in mid-June, to 23 points underwater in late June, to 26 points in July, to 31 points in August, and now to 43 points underwater.”
As for Republicans, they like Kennedy better than they like many of the top GOP presidential candidates. They even like him better than entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former vice president Mike Pence and about as much as former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). (Only Trump and DeSantis are clearly more popular.)
He’s about as polarizing (with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed) as Ramaswamy. And he’s less popular among Democrats than Haley and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
Imagine if any of these GOP candidates were to drop out and wage a third-party campaign; we could be talking about a potential spoiler for Trump’s general-election hopes, not Biden’s.
This comes with some caveats.
One big one is that we don’t know what kind of ballot access Kennedy might get in key states— a hurdle for any third-party candidate. The New York Times previously reported that he had been in talks with the Libertarian Party, which could help with that, but running on his own would mean collecting large amounts of signatures.
“The vast majority of states have fairly easy ballot access requirements for presidential candidates who run outside the two major parties,” said third-party ballot access expert Richard Winger. But Winger added that Kennedy “would have a far easier ballot access path as the [Libertarian] nominee.”
Another caveat is that it matters which voters might be up for grabs in a contest between Trump and Biden. While a greater percentage of Republicans than Democrats like Kennedy, indications seem to be that Kennedy’s potential base (conspiratorial, anti-establishment, anti-vaccine people) overlaps significantly with Trump-oriented voters. If those voters like Kennedy but already have a home, it mitigates the impact.
But even many Trump-skeptical Republicans like him. While his numbers in the Quinnipiac poll were better among Republicans who back Trump in the GOP primary— 53 percent favorable to 17 percent unfavorable— his split among non-Trump-supporting GOP primary voters was still well in positive territory, at 40-18.
We’ve also seen that the number of Republican-leaning voters who are dissatisfied with Trump as their nominee rivals the number of Democrats who are dissatisfied with Biden as their option. And these numbers suggest that Kennedy has significantly more appeal to the political right than to the political left.
Kennedy has so little political appeal on the left, as we recapped from a poll this summer in New Hampshire, that very few left-leaning voters see him as an option:
The survey also asked people to use one word to describe Kennedy, and the most popular words [among Democratic-leaning voters] were “crazy,” “dangerous,” “insane,” “nutjob,” “conspiracy” and “crackpot.”
That same poll still showed Kennedy pulling 10 percent in the state’s Democratic primary (compared to Biden’s 70 percent). But Kennedy was the second choice of only 4 percent of voters. Furthermore, the survey asked about a scenario in which Biden isn’t on the ballot— there is wrangling over whether he’ll participate, given a dispute over the primary calendar— and only 3 percent of Biden voters said they would instead vote for Kennedy in that case. (Sixty-five percent said they would simply write in Biden.)
These are not the numbers of someone who is seriously competing for the nomination. These are the numbers of someone with a distinctly low ceiling. And that’s a ceiling whose proximity to the floor has long been clear, but which some people have chosen to ignore for their own reasons.
Those people who elevated Kennedy are apparently about to confront a very different situation, which might not play out quite as they had hoped.
Joe Manchin is rearing his head again as a possible third party candidate. He’d probably be more attractive to anti-Trump Republicans as well, more so than Democrats. I guess that could hurt Biden because it would give anti-MAGA Republicans a candidate who is neither Trump nor Biden. He was on Fox News Sunday telling Shannon Bream that “people are unsatisfied right now” and teasing a possible run. Maybe he and RFK, Jr could debate; I'm sure Fox would be more than interested. It would probably be as exciting and informative as another Republican debate.