RFK Jr. Challenges President Biden in 2024 Democratic Primary

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy and son of former Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), has announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party’s 2024 presidential nomination. Kennedy’s name is synonymous with the Democratic Party’s royalty, but his candidacy is viewed as a longshot, particularly because of his controversial positions on most issues.

While Kennedy’s climate positions are aligned with his party’s platform, he is a fringe politician who harbors dangerous beliefs, including being a prominent COVID-19 vaccine skeptic and a government conspiracy theorist. His anti-vaccine positions may be anathema to many Democratic voters, but a recent poll found that 14 percent of 2020 Biden voters would vote for Kennedy in a Democratic primary.

Although Kennedy’s entry into the race is unlikely to displace a sitting president, it could weaken President Biden’s position ahead of the general election. General election polls suggest Biden’s position is already fragile, with former President Donald Trump leading him by 1 point among registered voters nationwide. If Kennedy mounts an aggressively negative primary campaign against Biden, it could hobble him in the general election, similar to how a tough Democratic primary race against an outsider weakened Hillary Clinton in 2016 when she faced Donald Trump.

Kennedy has a unique asset: his last name. Even though many of his siblings and living relatives have disavowed him and are openly backing Biden, the family brand will likely still be of some value to him. Kennedy could potentially garner around 25 percent of the primary vote, which is more than enough to damage President Biden in the general election if he can bring enough anti-Biden Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who are government skeptics into his fold.

Ted Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s uncle, is remembered as a formidable challenger to Jimmy Carter in the 1980 Democratic primary. Carter was an unpopular incumbent, whose first term was marred by high inflation and geopolitical crises. Kennedy’s challenge to Carter ultimately failed, but he limped into his general election contest against Ronald Reagan and ultimately lost in one of the greatest landslides in American history.

While Kennedy couldn’t be further from the man his uncle was, he has the potential to shake up the Democratic Party’s primary process at a time when its leader is vulnerable. Even if Kennedy doesn’t win the primary, he could complicate matters for President Biden, who would benefit from a cakewalk primary ahead of a likely rematch against Donald Trump in the general election.

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