DemDaily: The Kennedy Factor

April 25. 2024

Last Thursday, officials in the battleground state of Michigan confirmed that Independent Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., had secured a place on the state's presidential ballot as the nominee of the Natural Law Party.

A victory in Michigan, which President Joe Biden won in 2020 by 2.78% and former President Donald Trump won in 2016 by 0.23%, is critical to winning the presidency, and Kennedy, who is currently polling at 9% in the state, could easily sway the outcome to one of the primary party candidates.

RFK. Jr. hails from Democratic, and indeed American, royalty. He is the grandson of former US Ambassador to the United Kingdom Joseph P, Kennedy, Sr. and the son of former US Attorney General and US Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; the nephew of the late Senator Ted Kennedy and former President John F. Kennedy, Jr. Many of his ten siblings and fellow descendents have honored the family tradition of public service, including two US Ambassadors, one US envoy, two members of Congress, a Lt. Governor, three state legislators and a mayor. He is the fifth member of the Kennedy dynasty to run for US president.

Kennedy, who filed his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination April 5, 2023, abandoned his long-shot primary to Biden October 9, 2023, announcing he was instead running as an independent -- saying he represented “a populist movement that defies left-right division.”


The 70-year-old environmental lawyer, anti-vaccine activist, and conspiracy theorist is still something of a political enigma -- drawing a range of people on the ideological spectrum to his candidacy and his self-proclaimed role as "spoiler."

Kennedy has been able to capitalize on his storied family name while running counter to many of the issues that anchor its legacy.

Many of the larger Kennedy family members, most of whom have unequivocally rejected RFK, Jr.'s candidacy over concerns that his independent campaign will tip the balance to Trump, made their stance known publicly on Thursday.

In a split-screen moment, while RFK. Jr was celebrating his Michigan ballot victory, more than a dozen of his immediate and extended family met in Philadelphia to endorse President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for a second term.

At a press conference at the Martin Luther King Recreation Center, RFK Jr's sister, Kerry Kennedy, said, “We can say today, with no less urgency, that our rights and freedoms are once again in peril. That is why we all need to come together in a campaign that should unite not only Democrats but all Americans, including Republicans and independents who believe in what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.... The Kennedy family endorses Joe Biden for President."


The Kennedy family members who attended Biden’s event Thursday included Rory Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Joe Kennedy II, Beth Kennedy, Joe Kennedy III, Christopher Kennedy, Maxwell Taylor Kennedy, Vicki Strauss Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Kerry Kennedy Meltzer, Max Meltzer, Ted Kennedy Jr., Stephen Kennedy Smith, Peter McKelvy and Rebeca McKelvy.

“I hear some of my family will be endorsing President Biden today," said Kennedy. "I am pleased they are politically active – it’s a family tradition. We are divided in our opinions but united in our love for each other. "

Michigan is the second state after Utah to confirm that Kennedy's name will be on the ballot. Kennedy is seeking ballot access in all 50 states through a mixture of independent petitions and third-party nominations. His campaign says they've collected enough signatures in several other states, including the battlegrounds of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina, which have not yet been validated by elections officials.

An April 21-23 YouGov/Economist national poll of registered voters showed, among a field of five candidates, Biden and Trump were in a dead heat at 43% each, followed by Kennedy at 3%. Leftist intellectual and activist Cornell West and presumptive Green Party nominee Jill Stein registered at 0%.

DemList will keep you informed.

DemDaily: The 2024 Presidential Primary Calendar. The Updates! 4/10/24
DemDaily: No Labels Bows Out 4/5/24
DemDaily: The Third Party Factor 3/19/24

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Kimberly Scott

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Resources: AP, CNN, New York Times, Deadline

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