Campaign Insider Confirms Independent Run for Kennedy: Could It Be a Replay of 1992, Or a Flop?

A new survey commissioned by attorney Robert Kennedy Jr.’s backers finds that he could draw as much as 19 percent of the vote in 2024.

Lisa Lake/Getty Images for SiriusXM
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on June 5, 2023, at Philadelphia. Lisa Lake/Getty Images for SiriusXM

A third-party or independent presidential run by attorney Robert Kennedy Jr. could draw support comparable to that of a Reform candidate who ran against President George H.W. Bush in 1992, Ross Perot, according to a new survey released by one of Mr. Kennedy’s biggest supporting committees.

In a national survey by John Zogby Strategies that was conducted for the American Values 2024 PAC, which is supporting Mr. Kennedy’s bid for president, the pollster found that President Trump would lead President Biden 40 percent to 38 percent, with a generic independent candidate receiving 17 percent of the vote.

When Mr. Kennedy was substituted for the generic independent candidate, the pollster found that Messrs. Trump and Biden would be tied at 38 percent support, and Mr. Kennedy would receive 19 percent. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.2 points.

“When his name enters the three-way, Kennedy creates an attrition of support for the incumbent among young voters, Blacks and Hispanics,” pollster Jeremy Zogby said in a memo accompanying the poll. “Though well within the margin of error, take note as this could be fatal in a general election for the Democrats.”

The poll’s findings that Mr. Kennedy would likely pull additional support from the Republican side align with an analysis of an average of approval polls conducted by FiveThirtyEight.

FiveThirtyEight’s analysis found that, on average, 36 percent of Democrats have a positive view of Mr. Kennedy, while 41 percent have a negative view. Among Republicans, 51 percent have a positive view of Mr. Kennedy, while 23 percent have a negative view. 

The same poll also found that Mr. Kennedy would draw 27 percent support among likely Democratic voters in a Democratic primary, while Mr. Biden would draw 57 percent support. Author Marianne Williamson would draw 5 percent support.

Among registered Democrats, Mr. Biden would receive 73 percent, whereas Mr. Kennedy would receive 16 percent, though the pollster found Mr. Kennedy leads Mr. Biden among independents by 45 percent to 31 percent. 

The American Values 2024 PAC has been prepping Mr. Kennedy to leave the Democratic Party and run as an independent in 2024 as soon as next week, according to reports from Politico and Reuters.

A campaign insider, who declined to be named, confirmed the reports to the Sun. “It will be during the day on Monday, October 9th,” the campaign insider says. “Do not have the location in Philly or exact time as of yet.”

In a press release accompanying the poll, the American Values 2024 PAC rebuffed claims made by Democrats that a third-party bid from Mr. Kennedy would deliver the presidency to Mr. Trump.

“One of the most effective DNC slurs against Bobby Kennedy has been that his candidacy will help Trump win,” the press release reads. “The opposite is true. Kennedy is taking more votes from Trump than from Biden.”

The American Values PAC also drew comparisons to Perot’s 1992 run for the White House in its press release, saying that Mr. Kennedy is “starting off where Ross Perot finished.”

In 1992, Perot won 18.9 percent of the popular vote but did not win the plurality of votes in any state, thus receiving no electoral votes. Republicans have since accused Perot of acting as a spoiler and delivering the election to President Clinton.

A political scientist at John Jay College, Brian Arbour, is skeptical of this narrative from Mr. Kennedy’s campaign, pointing out that Perot started his campaign as the frontrunner, according to an ABC News Washington Post poll from June 1992.

The survey found that Perot enjoyed 36 percent support, while President Bush was at 30 percent and Mr. Clinton was at 26 percent support.

“I don’t think there’s much evidence of Kennedy speaking to a significant portion of the Democratic electorate as much as there is evidence of him speaking to a portion of the Democratic electorate that just wants someone else,” Mr. Arbour tells the Sun.

He compared Mr. Kennedy’s support to the support for a candidate other than President Obama in the 2012 West Virginia Democratic primary results. In that competition,  Mr. Obama received 59 percent support while a federal prisoner and perennial candidate for political office, Keith Judd, received 41 percent of the vote. 

A political scientist at the University of Denver, Seth Masket, says he doubts that Mr. Kennedy would be able to draw much support, even from the Republicans with a favorable opinion of him.

Mr. Masket writes that there are three types of Republican voters searching for a candidate who is not Mr. Trump: those who want a “return to the conservative principles of the Reagan/Bush years,” those who want a more electable candidate, and those who “don’t like Trump’s conspiratorial world view.” 

In Mr. Masket’s analysis, Mr. Kennedy’s appeal would be limited to these groups, and, while Mr. Kennedy probably retains support among those who “find Trump insufficiently skeptical about vaccines,” his Election Day support will probably be well below what he is polling at now, even among Republicans who like him.

The co-chairman of American Values 2024, Tony Lyons, said the poll shows that “Kennedy can win as an independent candidate in 2024” and claimed the Democrats’ lack of acknowledgment of Mr. Kennedy shows that the party “prefers Trump to Bobby Kennedy.”

Since entering the race in May, Mr. Kennedy has made little to no progress in gaining support in the Democratic primary. According to FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls, Mr. Kennedy entered the race with 15.5 percent support and now enjoys 15.3 percent support.

Now, Mr. Kennedy is gearing up to announce October 9 that he will be seeking the presidency with a new headquarters at New Jersey and the so-called Kennedy Caravan, a tour bus with Mr. Kennedy’s face painted on the side and a slogan reading, “The remedy is Kennedy.”

Mr. Kennedy himself has been pulling his own stunts as well in an effort to raise his profile ahead of his announcement, including backflipping off of a cliff in a post to X on Sunday.

The New York Sun

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