New Polling Reveals Why Dems Are Freaking Out Over RFK Jr.’s Candidacy

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  • The Democratic National Committee is ramping up its efforts against independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and other third-party candidates to combat what it views as the potential to spoil President Joe Biden’s reelection bid.
  • Recent national and battleground state polling indicates that Kennedy is pulling more support from Biden than Trump, showing the former president’s leads growing when the independent is on the ticket.
  • “Kennedy is a kook of the first order, and there’s a lot of kooks in the Democratic Party who aren’t happy with Biden. So you give them a third, kooky door to go through, and they just might do it,” Scott Jennings, a GOP strategist and veteran of numerous campaigns, told the DCNF.

New national and battleground state polling indicate why Democrats are concerned that independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s candidacy could be a spoiler for President Joe Biden’s reelection bid.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is ramping up efforts against Kennedy and other third-party candidates in hopes of deterring them from siphoning off votes from Biden’s base. Recent polling has found the independent pulling more support from Biden than Trump, which is contrary to survey data that followed Kennedy’s departure from the Democratic Party in early October.

Trump’s lead grows slightly from one point to 2.4 points nationally when Kennedy, “Justice for All Party” candidate Cornel West and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are on the ballot, according to the RealClearPolitics (RCP) averages. For a three-way race with Kennedy, Trump’s margin widens to 5.4 points.

Additionally, the former president’s advantages increase when Kennedy and the other third-party candidates are included in swing states like Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia, according to the RCP averages.

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Trump’s lead over Biden jumps from 5.2 points to six points in Arizona; three points to six points in Nevada; 0.8 points to 2.7 points in Wisconsin; 0.2 points to two points in Pennsylvania; 4.4 points to 6.7 points in North Carolina; and 5.2 points to 7.4 points in Georgia.

All of these battleground states were won by less than three points last cycle.

In these states, Kennedy boasts anywhere from 5.5% to 10.3% support, according to the RCP averages. Nationally, the independent pulls in 10.3% of the share in a five-way race, as well as 12.3% when just he, Trump and Biden are on the ballot.

The polling trend is distinct from surveys conducted just days after Kennedy announced his switch to run as an independent.

A NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey released on Oct. 17 found Biden leading Trump by three points for a head-to-head matchup. The president’s margin grew to seven points with Kennedy on the ballot, with the independent garnering 16% support.

Other polling during the same time frame yielded similar results, including a Quinnipiac poll released on Nov. 1.

Political operatives and elections experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation that Kennedy is likely pulling more support from Biden than Trump due to his family’s legacy and name, as well as the president’s base of support being weaker than the former’s.

“Biden’s 2020 victory was fueled by rampant media and tech bias, some of which has since been exposed and marginalized and — even with those foul winds at his back — Biden only won narrowly,” Mark Weaver, a veteran Republican strategist, told the DCNF. “Many Biden voters with fond memories of the Democrat Party’s most iconic family name will first window shop and then proceed into the store to buy the Kennedy brand. Most Trump base voters will glance in the front window and keep on walking down to the Trump Super Center.”

Charles Bullock, elections expert and political science professor at the University of Georgia, believes that Democrats will seek to inform their voters of Kennedy’s policies to combat the perceived threat of his candidacy, as some of his views on vaccines, censorship and Ukraine align more with Republicans.

“So I think what we’ll see is that the Democratic Party now will try to educate those voters, and essentially say, ‘look, this is not the Kennedy family you’re thinking of in terms of where it stands on policy,” Bullock told the DCNF. “Yes, it’s the same bloodline. But this Robert Kennedy is rejected by most of his family, most of his siblings, even. They see him as a bit of a kook, as the black sheep. They are not in line with his conspiracy theories concerning vaccinations.”

Some of Kennedy’s family members have been critical of his run for president, both when he initially challenged Biden and later when he left the Democratic Party. Biden gathered with a large group of Kennedy’s family members on St. Patrick’s Day, where they took a photo together that was shared on X.

The DNC has assembled a team to counter Kennedy’s campaign and other third-party candidates, as well as a group of lawyers that will police the candidates’ ballot access efforts. In February, the DNC filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against super PAC American Values 2024 for helping Kennedy gather ballot signatures.

Scott Jennings, a GOP strategist and veteran of numerous campaigns, argued that the Democrats “wouldn’t be freaking out if they didn’t already know Kennedy hurts their guy more than he hurts Trump.”

“Kennedy is a kook of the first order, and there’s a lot of kooks in the Democratic Party who aren’t happy with Biden. So you give them a third, kooky door to go through, and they just might do it,” Jennings told the DCNF. “I tend to think Trump’s people will stick with him until the end, so I think the third party candidates are slightly more likely to hurt Biden.”

Others cautioned that Kennedy’s effect on the ticket isn’t clear this far out from the election, especially considering the ballot access hurdle the independent faces.

“​​I think the data are somewhat muddy on Kennedy’s actual impact, particularly because the inclusion of other candidates usually includes Cornel West and Jill Stein, but not a named Libertarian (and there will be a Libertarian candidate, perhaps it’ll even be Kennedy),” Kyle Kondik, a nonpartisan polling analyst and managing editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball, told the DCNF. “It’s also not clear that Kennedy is going to be on the ballot in all the key states. Additionally, third party candidates often poll better than they perform. So I think Kennedy’s ultimate impact on the election is very hard to judge at this early point.”

Mike McKenna, a Republican political consultant and president of MWR Strategies, echoed some of Kondik’s sentiment and told the DCNF that he’s “not sure how this story turns out.”

“He seems to draw votes more from Mr. Biden than Mr. Trump (just like Jill Stein), that much is clear,” McKenna said. “The real question is whether he can get organized enough to get on enough state ballots to make a difference. Not sure about that yet.”

Kennedy is on the ballot in Utah and has collected enough signatures to qualify for the ticket in New Hampshire. The independent, with the help from his aligned super PAC, is nearing ballot access in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and South Carolina.

The campaign announced on March 5 that it had gathered the required amount of signatures to get on the ticket in Nevada, but he might have to restart the process as he did not yet have a running mate, according to CBS News. Various other states require candidates to list a vice president when attempting to gain ballot access, leading Kennedy to announce Silicon Valley lawyer Nicole Shanahan as his pick on Tuesday.

Stefanie Spear, press secretary for Kennedy, told the DCNF in a statement that the campaign is “confident it can curb the DNC’s efforts.”

“We have launched a robust ballot access plan to ensure the Kennedy/Shanahan ticket is on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia,” said Spear. “Now that we’ve announced our vice presidential candidate, Nicole Shanahan, the campaign is actively collecting signatures in 36 states. We have the field teams, volunteers, legal teams, paid circulators, supporters, and strategists ready to get the job done.”

Trump and his campaign have recently increased attacks on Kennedy, aiming to portray him as a left-wing candidate rather than an independent.

“RFK Jr. is a radical leftist – an environmental whack job who loves EV mandates, wants to end gasoline powered engines. He’s no Independent,” Steven Cheung, communications director for the Trump campaign, told the DCNF in a statement. “RFK Jr. is an AOC lover and opposes really any human advancement, preferring that we all live in caves by candlelight, except of course supports charging stations for your $150,000 electric car that can only drive a few miles before dying just like his presidential campaign.”

The Biden campaign and the DNC did not respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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