Is RFK Jr a Problem for Biden?

Kennedy campaign has 'surprising strength,' poll shows

2024 Democratic presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and President Joe Biden / Getty Images
April 20, 2023

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Wednesday launched his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, with a USA Today/Suffolk University poll finding that 14 percent of Democrats support the Kennedy family scion.

"That is surprising strength for a candidate who has a famous political name but is now known mostly" as an anti-vaccine activist, USA Today noted. While President Joe Biden is still the heavy favorite for the 2024 nomination despite not officially announcing his campaign, only 67 percent of his 2020 supporters still support him, the poll found. Kennedy stands at 14 percent, and fellow long-shot candidate Marianne Williamson is at 5 percent.

Biden voters "are open to other Democrats," Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos said. "Kennedy, although a long shot at this point, starts in double digits and can't be ignored."

The president's poll numbers have cratered even among Democrats, the Washington Free Beacon has reported, with a majority of party members saying they don't want Biden to run again. Among all Americans, 78 percent don’t want the 80-year-old president to run. Biden's approval rating fell this week to a near-record low, the Free Beacon reported, with respondents pointing to the country's precarious economy and rampant crime spike.

Kennedy, the son of 1968 Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of former president John F. Kennedy, gave a "smart, carefully calibrated speech" at his Wednesday kickoff event, during which "the word 'vaccine' never crossed his lips," the New Hampshire Journal reported.

If Kennedy puts his name, his money, and "issues that energize" his base to good use, "he could create real problems" for Biden, the Journal reported.

Biden's team, for its part, appears to be scoffing at both Kennedy and Williamson's challenges, CNN reported Thursday. Kennedy did not appear worried, the Journal reported, "comparing his 2024 quest to the campaign his father was running in 1968 before an assassin's bullet brought it to an end."

In both cases, he said, a Kennedy was "running against an incumbent Democrat in the White House" at a time of "unprecedented polarization" and with "the liberal press … all against him."