October 10, 2023

RFK Jr. independent run for president: good for Trump?

Robert F Kennedy Jr. has announced an independent run for president in 2024.  The expectation is that it will hurt Let's Go Brandon and help president Trump's election bid.  But I can see circumstances where he pulls voters from both parties.  He has gotten a warm reception from many bloggers and media types on the right, because he is willing to point out Let's Go Brandon's horrible record. Will that warm reception continue to the point it hurts president Trump? It may.

While third party candidates typically do not have a major impact on elections, the most notable, relatively recent election where it mattered was Ross Perot's independent run in 1992.  He pulled only 8% of the popular vote (a fairly high watermark), did not win any states but clearly had an impact on the election. He espoused a number of conservative policies (as well as liberal policies). It's clear he took votes away from the Republican candidate, George Bush but likely also from Bill Clinton. That he did not do better was likely a result of his self-inflicted campaign chaos.

The argument that he may hurt president Trump in a general election stems from the fact that there are many issues where he is on the same side as president Trump.  People are looking for common sense and he may have many liberal views, but he definitely would have been the most, if not only,  common sense Democrat in the primary race.  Those who want common sense without the chaos and/or bombastic style of president Trump could easily turn to RFK Jr. instead.  There are a lot of Republican voters who still get their news from mainstream media and have been spoon fed the notion that president Trump was abysmal as a candidate and as president.  Conversely the never-Trump 'crowd' would not need to throw in with Let's Go Brandon.

I think it's too early to tell if RFK Jr. hurts Trump or the other guy more, but it's something to watch.

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