The Kennedy Legacy: RFK Jr.’s Independent Run for the Presidency

By Jason Collins


Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.

While the world has been captivated by the neck-and-neck fight between bombastic Republican Donald Trump and befuddled Democrat Joe Biden, another candidate has been quietly growing their campaign as an alternative. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has staked his name in the 2024 presidential elections, and now the fight may not be between Trump and Biden because it looks like we’re seeing a three-person contest shaping up. 

Kennedy’s Political Background 

It is no surprise that Kennedy is running for the highest office in the country, considering that presidential genes run in his family. In total, four members of the Kennedy clan ran for president as Democrats, with Kennedy’s uncle John F. Kennedy serving as president from 1960 until 1963. Several other family members also ran for president but didn’t make it past the primary. Kennedy’s father, Robert F. Kennedy, ran a campaign, but he was assassinated in California as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Kennedy, who strongly disagrees with Democratic President Joe Biden on many issues, initially set out to challenge the sitting president in the Democratic Primary. However, the Democratic Primary in 2024, is, for lack of a better word, rigged against anyone not named Joe Biden and so, RFK Jr. decided he would break from his family’s legacy and run as an Independent rather than a Democrat. 

Kennedy’s move from Democrat to Independent stemmed from a need to free himself from the byzantine entanglements that cloud the Primary process and because he had growing criticism of the Democratic National Committee. Kennedy himself was known to throw around claims that the Democratic party was rigging things in Biden’s favor. This claim echoes that of former President Donald Trump who maintains election interference in 2020 as one of the primary pillars of his grievance campaign.   

Before spending his time campaigning for president, Kennedy worked as an environmental lawyer and was a strong advocate for anti-covid vaccine narratives. But now Kennedy is taking his mix of liberal, conservative, and libertarian views and using it to his advantage to become the next president of the United States. If Americans feel both Biden and Trump are unfit, then why not him?

Twisty Political Affiliations  

Kennedy’s presidential campaign was a rather interesting one to start with due to his ever-changing political affiliations. On March 3, 2023, Kennedy announced his intentions to run for president in 2024 and later filed his candidacy on April 5, 2023, with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). His campaign was formally launched at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston on April 19. During this event, Kennedy announced his intentions to run as a Democrat, sticking true to his family roots. 

This, however, did not last long because, in October 2023, Kennedy announced that he was reorienting his campaign to run as an independent, which worked out to be a very clever move for him. During a Philadelphia campaign event, Kennedy explained,

I’m here to declare myself an independent candidate for president of the United States. I’m here to join you in making a new declaration of independence for our entire nation. 

This move caused waves of discontent amongst his family members, with his siblings publicly denouncing his candidacy. But this hasn’t slowed Kennedy down in the least. Kennedy sent out a warning to Trump and Biden, saying,

The Democrats are frightened I’m going to spoil the election for President Biden, and the Republicans are frightened that I’m gonna spoil it for President Trump. The truth is, they’re both right. My intention is to spoil it for both of them.   

Getting on the ballot is one of the major hurdles any third-party candidate faces in a US presidential election. Kennedy has been toying with the idea of running as a Libertarian instead of an Independent after facing challenges in getting ballot access. Currently, Kennedy has only qualified in the state of Utah. This is not uncommon for independent candidates, but the only other way for Kennedy to get ballot access is by being a party nominee. So, with the Republican, Democrat, and Independent paths to the White House out of the window, Kennedy has one option left: join the Libertarian ticket. According to CBS News, Kennedy has been in talks with the Liberation Party, and depending on how far these discussions progress, we may be looking at Kennedy being the Libertarian Party candidate. The Libertarian Party will select its presidential nominee, which could be Kennedy, at the 2024 Libertarian National Convention in Washington, D.C. between May 24 – 26, 2024.  

But for now, nothing has been confirmed.

Kennedy’s Current Campaign Success 

Despite his struggles with ballot access, which looks like he may solve by switching sides, Kennedy has been doing well campaign-wise, especially in his finances. What has allowed his campaign to start competing with Trump and Biden is his super PAC. It has come to light that Kennedy’s campaign super PAC managed to raise a whopping $50 million, and half of that money came from Timothy Mellon, who also backed Trump in 2023. This PAC is so well financed that it even ran a campaign ad during the Super Bowl. 

An independent outside of Biden and Trump making such a big splash is rare in politics. Some of this can be attributed to name recognition but there is another more important reason why Kennedy can do this: mistrust in mainstream media. Kennedy is slowly but surely picking up the support of Americans who trust neither Trump nor Biden. What makes Kennedy a desirable choice for many voters is his fringe views, particularly his vocal distrust of COVID-19 vaccines and his criticism of the contemporary political economy of the country. Kennedy’s favor of small businesses and openness to massive debt forgiveness makes him a desirable choice for some independent voters. 

A recent report by Politico found that in the last three months of Kennedy’s campaign, he raised $7 million. $224,000 of that came from previous Trump donors, and $105,000 came from previous Biden supporters. So, it is clear that Kennedy is an attractive alternative for voters who are not keen on Trump or Biden. But is this enough for Kennedy to gain ballot access across all 50 states? This is unlikely. Kennedy’s last shot at ballot access was to join the Libertarian Party, as they had previously succeeded in getting ballot access in all states back in 2016 and 2020. As such, his future in this presidential race will largely be determined at the Libertarian Convention in May. 

Polling numbers and outlook

Current national polling stats from Fivethirtyeight show that Kennedy is almost neck-and-neck with Republican candidate Nikki Haley. A survey conducted by SurveyUSA between January 31 and February 2 had Haley at 10% and Kennedy at 10%. Kennedy still has some ways to go to catch up with Trump and Biden, who in the same poll were sitting at 41% and 36%.   

Kennedy’s move to the Libertarian Party could be the push that sees him get on the ballots in key battleground states, and that is enough to make both the Republicans and Democrats nervous. Is this enough to win him the presidency? The chances of this happening are highly unlikely and he will never be allowed to debate with Trump or Biden but there’s no doubt that he will give both Biden and Trump a run for their money. Further, being on the ballot is key since both Biden and Trump are in their 80s. Trump also faces a myriad of legal entanglements and Biden was recently described by his own justice department as being mentally unfit to stand trial. We have a long way from now until November and Kennedy might end up being the last man with name recognition standing on Election Day. 

Kennedy’s presence, even in defeat, could influence the results of the race. A likely scenario we’ll see is this: Looking at Trump’s supporters, it’s clear they’re as solid as granite. But if Kennedy does manage to win more of Biden’s supporters, he may see himself weakening Biden’s position. Who would benefit from this? Trump. Kennedy’s presence in the race may be what helps the former President secure the keys to the White House. Every vote Biden loses lowers the ceiling that Trump needs to reach to be elected. Whether Kennedy can pull an inside straight and make a viable White House run, or if he looms as a large enough spoiler and takes 5% of the vote, he will be a significant factor in the upcoming election.