Can RFK Jr. Actually Win?

Kennedy’s campaign is shockingly resilient for a third-party bid.

The story

Although a third-party candidate has never come close to winning a presidential election, Robert F Kennedy, Jr. is the strongest performing independent in decades and has a sizable war chest fueling his campaign, thanks in part to his wealthy running mate.

Despite being Democrat party royalty until recently, Kennedy says he entered the presidential race as an independent candidate because both political parties failed to produce change the country needs. Specifically, he describes the “fulcrum of the problem as the corrupt collusion between government and corporate power,” which only he can fix.

With Donald Trump and Joe Biden contending for top spot in the 2024 election, political observers are left wondering what RFK’s path is from here.

The sides

Since Kennedy isn’t polling high enough to win any state, he’s considered more of a spoiler than a contender. Donald Trump and his supporters are convinced that RFK will usurp more votes from Biden due to his environmental radicalism, his soft approach to social issues,and the Kennedy name.

Biden supporters point to polls indicating that Kennedy pulls more support from Trump. They underscore Kennedy’s vaccine skepticism and his rhetoric on securing the southern border as evidence of being Republican-friendly. The truth may lie somewhere in the middle.

RFK is convinced that Trump would defeat Biden in an election, implying that his own candidacy would not attract enough Republican support to shift the outcome in Biden's favor.

Although RFK is pushing hard for ballot access in all 50 states, his campaign has not outlined a clear path to victory. His latest mission is to qualify for the debate stage to face down Biden and Trump next month — perhaps a strategy for presenting himself to Americans as an attractive alternative.

Beyond the headlines

In February, Democrats launched a series of billboard attack ads noting that RFK and Donald Trump share Timothy Mellon — a longtime GOP supporter — as their biggest donor. Last week, Mellon dropped another $5 million into Kennedy’s super PAC, bringing his total Kennedy campaign donations to $25 million.

Approximately 21,000 donors contributed at least $200 to Kennedy’s campaign since he declared in October 2023. Nearly 75 percent of these donors did not make any political contributions during the 2020 cycle, meaning RFK is attracting voters who were repulsed by both Trump and Biden last cycle.

Recently, attacks on Kennedy have been coming from the right. His recent endorsement of abortion until birth earned him the scorn of nearly the entire right. Kennedy said, “every abortion is a tragedy,” yet he supports a position held only by the far left in American politics. He quickly walked back his comments.

Kennedy and Trump have also been swinging at each other. RFK criticized the former president for his COVID response, claiming he violated Americans’ First Amendment rights. Trump excoriated him in return, saying, “Don’t waste any Republican or Conservative votes on Junior. He’s one of the most Liberal Lunatics ever to run for office.”

Why it matters

The Kennedy campaign is a live grenade. Both parties know it and are spending precious airtime and advertising dollars ensuring that the high-polling, yet barren, independent bid detonates on the other party on election day.

The support RFK is garnering from disaffected voters across the political spectrum, along with massive support from young voters, paints a stark picture of the dissatisfaction Americans feel about the major presidential contenders. He has substantial poll numbers, a strong ballot collection effort — likely to land him on all 50 states’ ballots, and both large and small donors backing him.

Whether his presidential run is aimed at securing a position in the next administration, attracting more media attention, or simply sending a message to the political establishment, his campaign appears strong and ready to throw a wrench into November’s election.

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