RFK Jr. Could Shake Up Presidential Race in Key Battleground State

Independent is likely to pull votes away from both major candidates in Michigan, but Trump could stand to benefit the most.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will appear on the presidential ballot in Michigan, a key battleground state in the 2024 election, threatening to upend what was essentially a two-person contest between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Mr. Kennedy, who has struggled to gain ballot access, was nominated by the Natural Law Party in Michigan on April 18, granting him a place on Michigan’s presidential ballot.

In a state that President Biden won by just 2.8 percent in 2020, Mr. Kennedy’s presence could be a deciding factor in the race, even if he does not win.

However, pollsters and pundits are divided on how Mr. Kennedy’s run may help or hinder either major candidate.

The impact could be determined by the preference of minority and independent voters, and the effect of “negative partisanship” on the behavior of the electorate.

Though still largely unknown as a candidate apart from his family name, Mr. Kennedy has gained some traction over the last four months.

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A December Quinnipiac poll showed Mr. Kennedy leading Presidents Biden and Trump among voters under 35. A February poll by Quinnipiac indicated that Mr. Kennedy leads both among independent voters, who comprise some 43 percent of the electorate.

That’s telling according to Jim Lee of Susquehanna Polling, who believes Mr. Kennedy will perform well with independent voters in the fall.

“He would be looking for someone that’s not loyal to either political party, someone that is unhappy with the direction of the country, someone that is looking for a third-party solution,” Mr. Lee told The Epoch Times.

That bodes ill for President Trump in Michigan, Mr. Lee said, because he relied heavily on independent voters to carry the state in 2020.

Mr. Kennedy also does well with Hispanic voters, who have largely favored Democratic candidates in the past.

Among Hispanic voters, 34 percent preferred President Biden, 31 percent Mr. Kennedy, and 30 percent President Trump, according to data reported by CNN in February.

That, combined with a steady migration of Hispanic voters away from the Democratic Party since 2008, according to Gallup polling, could be problematic for President Biden.

However, two sets of March polls indicate that Mr. Kennedy would pull voters from both major candidates, producing only a slight advantage for President Trump.

Spry Strategies found that when considered side by side, President Trump gained a 48 percent response to President Biden’s 44 percent.

However, when Mr. Kennedy was added to the list, he was favored by 9 percent of the respondents, pulling 4 percent away from President Biden and 5 percent from President Trump.

In a similar poll conducted by Emerson College, the side-by-side comparison was evenly split with Presidents Trump and Biden each receiving 50 percent.

With other candidates also listed, President Trump emerged as the leader by 43 percent of the vote to President Biden’s 41 percent.

Mr. Kennedy received 5 percent and third-party candidates Jill Stein and Cornell West received 1 percent each.

Though the presence of Mr. Kennedy seems to hurt President Biden only marginally, his campaign has taken the threat seriously.

President Biden announced the endorsement of 15 members of Mr. Kennedy’s extended family on April 18, a day before he gained access to the Michigan ballot.

While Mr. Kennedy appears to draw a bit more support from Biden voters than from Trump voters, that’s been shifting over the past several months according to Republican pollster Neil Newhouse.

“As he [Mr. Kennedy] has become more defined, Democrats have moved away from him,” Mr. Newhouse told The Epoch Times.

“His base of strength looks like [people] who would be more inclined to vote for Donald Trump than they would for Joe Biden.”

“Right now he takes a little bit more votes from Trump than he does from Biden simply because his base is lower-educated, younger, and more Hispanic,” Mr. Newhouse said, adding that President Trump has scored well in those demographics recently.

Negative Partisanship

Votes gained by Mr. Kennedy may also be driven by negative partisanship, meaning they may be votes cast in opposition to either of the other candidates rather than in support of him.

Presidents Biden and Trump both have unfavorable ratings of above 50 percent, making negative partisanship a significant factor in this race.

In other words, voters may cast a ballot for Mr. Kennedy to show opposition to the other candidates.

President Trump may stand to gain a bit more from this phenomenon.

“Trump voters are more solidified, and that means it’s likely that RFK will peel votes away from Biden more so than Trump,” Mr. Lee said.

President Trump could see some benefit from negative partisanship even among voters who dislike him according to Nicholas Higgins, a political science professor at North Greenville University.

“There will be people who would vote against Trump who are now choosing RFK instead of Biden,” Mr. Higgins, told The Epoch Times. This amounts to a loss of votes for President Biden.

For his part, Mr. Kennedy insists he’s in the race to win rather than play the spoiler for one of the major candidates.

He is already on the ballot in Utah and collected all the signatures required to be placed on the ballot in New Hampshire, Nevada, Hawaii, North Carolina, Idaho, Nebraska, and Iowa, according to a campaign statement.

In an October poll of voters in battleground states, Mr. Kennedy led President Biden and President Trump among voters under 45 years old.

“I only need as little as 34 percent of the votes to win. To achieve that, I currently need 4.5 percent of people planning to vote for Biden or Trump to vote for me. I’m confident we can get there,” Mr. Kennedy wrote on social media on Jan. 6.

Jacob Burg and Jeff Louderback contributed to this report.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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