Democrats in Panic Mode Over Third-Party Threats: Report

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February 8, 2024

Democrats have been raising alarm over potential threats from third-party candidates to President Joe Biden's reelection campaign this November, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

Polls indicating that third-party candidates—such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West, and a potential one from No Labels—could take a share of the votes, as well as progressive efforts to court voters who are dismayed by Biden's support for Israel have driven such fears, per the outlet.

"A lot of Democrats have come to the realization over the last month that RFK and West are real electoral threats and not just curiosities, and the Middle East crisis is partially driving that, especially in West’s case," one Biden ally told the Post. "The RFK problem is not that he gets 18 percent. It is that he gets 3 percent or 2 percent or 1 percent."

Democrats have also gone on the record to voice their fears that third-party candidates could hurt Biden.

"It’s clear that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is being propped up and funded by Donald Trump and his allies because they believe that he is a useful stalking horse who could throw the election Trump’s way," said Lis Smith, a former adviser to Pete Buttigieg's 2020 campaign, whom the DNC brought on last month to counter third-party candidates. "We need to sound that alarm every day between now and the election."

Tony Lyons, who runs the Kennedy-allied American Values 2024 super PAC, slammed Democratic criticism of Kennedy's independent presidential run.

"The DNC is in panic mode and rolling out tired old political games," Lyons said. "While Bobby Kennedy is crisscrossing the country speaking truth to passionate supporters, describing ideas, policies, common sense solutions to complex problems, Biden surrogates are pushing the usual conspiracy theories."

West, who told the Post Biden is "enabling genocide," has previously rejected the characterization of his candidacy as a spoiler.

"There might be slices of people 'if I didn’t vote for West, I would have voted for Biden.' But that’s not to me, a spoiler," West told Politico in December. "If you’re in a race, and you make a case, and they vote for you, how do you become the spoiler?"

Some polls have indicated that third-party candidates could hurt Biden. A Quinnipiac poll from late January saw Biden beat Trump by 6 points in a head-to-head race, but his lead shrank to 2 points when pollsters added third-party candidates into the mix.

Additionally, a Michigan poll from earlier in January saw Trump beat Biden in an 8-point blowout in the state when the race was between the two of them. The former president's lead widened with the third-party candidates on the ballot, including a hypothetical candidacy from No Labels, which has explored fielding a unity ticket with a Republican and a Democrat.

Along with third-party polling successes, there are activists trying to push Biden to demand a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas by capitalizing on his electoral concerns. In one effort in Michigan, Rep. Rashida Tlaib's (D., Mich.) sister is encouraging pro-Palestinian residents to vote "uncommitted" in the Great Lakes State's primary this month to make Biden feel "more at risk of losing Michigan in the general election."