Wed. Jul 24th, 2024
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent environmental lawyer and vocal anti-vaccine activist, announced on Monday his decision to run for the presidency as an independent candidate. He has withdrawn from the Democratic primary race, introducing an unexpected twist to the unfolding 2024 presidential election, which was already shaping up as a probable rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a member of the well-known Democratic political family, had been pursuing a long-shot bid in the Democratic primary. Surprisingly, he enjoyed higher favorability ratings among Republicans than among Democrats. The potential impact of this Republican support in a general election, where Kennedy would be competing against Trump, remains uncertain. Supporters of both Biden and Trump have at times expressed concerns about Robert F. Kennedy Jr. potentially acting as a spoiler candidate.

Biden’s supporters had largely dismissed Kennedy’s primary campaign as lacking seriousness. In response to queries about his independent run, a spokesperson from the Democratic National Committee responded with a dismissive eye-roll emoji.

For his announcement, Kennedy chose Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, a symbolic location for his campaign launch. Campaign signs hinted at a possible new slogan: “Declare your independence.” Among the crowd of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is supporters were individuals who did not identify as Democrats or Republicans but saw Kennedy as a truth-teller and a refreshing change from typical politicians.

“He tells it how it is,” said Julia Hill, a 23-year-old student from New Jersey. “He doesn’t sound like a politician.”

Other supporters, like Brent Snyder, a disabled veteran from South Philadelphia, revealed that they had previously voted for Trump but were now seeking a different direction.

“Over the past few years, I’ve noticed the Republican Party heading in a direction I didn’t like,” Snyder said. “While I don’t agree with everything that’s happening with Trump, I think he’s carrying too much baggage right now. The current division is just awful. We need someone to unite both sides and make things work.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is announcement comes shortly after progressive activist Cornel West abandoned his Green Party bid in favor of an independent presidential run. Meanwhile, the centrist group No Labels is actively working to secure ballot access for an as-yet-unnamed candidate.

Kennedy had spent weeks accusing the DNC of bias against him in the party’s primary and had hinted at exploring other options.

In campaign emails and videos, he criticized the DNC for not scheduling debates between Biden and other primary candidates. He also protested the committee’s decision to give South Carolina, rather than Iowa or New Hampshire, the leadoff position on the primary calendar for this election cycle. In September, at a New Hampshire barbecue hosted by Republican former Sen. Scott Brown, Kennedy stated, “If they obstruct me, I will consider all available options.”

In recent years, Kennedy has cultivated relationships with far-right figures despite his long-time identification as a Democrat and frequent mentions of his late father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and his uncle, President John F. Kennedy, during his campaign. He appeared on a channel run by Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and headlined an event on the ReAwaken America Tour, organized by Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Polls indicate that Kennedy is viewed more favorably by Republicans than by Democrats. He has also garnered support from certain far-right conservatives due to his unconventional views, particularly his vocal skepticism regarding the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, despite extensive scientific evidence supporting their safety and effectiveness in preventing severe disease and death.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is anti-vaccine organization, Children’s Health Defense, is currently involved in a lawsuit against several news organizations, including The Associated Press. The lawsuit alleges violations of antitrust laws related to efforts to combat misinformation, including false claims about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had temporarily stepped away from the organization when he announced his presidential bid but remains listed as one of its attorneys in the lawsuit.”

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