Robert F. Kennedy Jr., at 69 years old, is taking more voters from Donald Trump than from Joe Biden.
The decision of lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to seek the U.S. presidency as an independent initially irritated the Democrats, but today it seems to worry the Republicans more.
Kennedy’s candidacy reflects Americans’ discomfort with their current choices. Both President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and former President Donald Trump, a Republican, seem to be the near-certain nominees of their respective parties.
But Biden will turn 81 in November and is the oldest president in U.S. history. His health, both physical and mental, worries many. Moreover, his economic agenda is neither popular nor successful.
Trump, at 77, is the undisputed owner of the Republican Party, but he faces dozens of federal and state charges of attempting to subvert the outcome of the 2020 election; charges connected with his role in the attempted coup of Jan. 6, 2021, trying to prevent the certification of election results; and misappropriating and handling classified documents, and charges which precede his presidency.
According to the polls, Kennedy, who promotes a populist anti-corporate policy, is drawing more voters away from Trump than Biden.
The story of independent presidential hopefuls in the U.S. has a quixotic resonance given the difficulties they face in registering in most, if not all, of the 50 states, and the lack of support networks.
But, at the same time, they are the closest thing to citizen candidates. On many occasions, independent candidates have relied on the goodwill of supporters to run their campaigns. But this is a country where elections are an industry.
In 2020, the estimated cost of the presidential campaign was $5.7 billion. The candidates raised more than $1.7 billion, and you have to add what was raised by their parties and affiliated organizations. All in all, they had an impact on the final result.
The most recent case is that of Ross Perot who ran as an anti-establishment candidate in the 1992 election and won 19% of the votes, which, according to analysis at the time, detracted from the reelection campaign of President George H.W. Bush who lost to Bill Clinton.
Kennedy is the son of Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968 while seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, five years after his brother, President John F. Kennedy, was killed. The third of three brothers, Ted Kennedy, served as senator for more than 45 years and died in 2009. The family name became a symbol of liberalism.
The aura of the family name seems to have faded over time, but still holds with some voters. It remains to be seen what this Kennedy will accomplish.