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RFK Jr. hints at third-party presidential bid - Dems worry

By Jake Beardslee · September 25, 2023

In brief…

  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has challenged President Biden in the Democratic primary, but hinted at a third-party run.
  • Kennedy privately met with the Libertarian Party chair to discuss possibly running as their nominee.
  • Democrats worry a third-party Kennedy bid could help elect Trump by drawing votes from Biden.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (above) has hinted at leaving the Democratic primary to launch a third-party presidential bid - worrying Biden supporters.  Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. may be ready to go rogue.

The son of the former attorney general has been facing stiff institutional resistance from the Democratic Party while pursuing a long-shot bid to challenge Joe Biden for his party’s 2024 presidential nomination. And although the scion of America’s most storied political clan previously committed to remaining in the Democratic race, he has recently hinted he may leave the party to mount a third-party general election bid.

Libertarian Party Chair Angela McArdle revealed that Kennedy met privately with her in July at a conference “to discuss the possibility of running as a Libertarian.”

“He emphasized that he was committed to running as a Democrat, but said that he considered himself very libertarian,” McArdle said in an interview. “We’re aligned on a lot of issues.”

While acknowledging ideological disagreements on environmental protection and abortion rights, Kennedy told the libertarian magazine Reason that he has “always been aligned with libertarians on most issues.”

Democrats worry a third-party Kennedy bid could draw votes away from Biden in a close general election and help elect a Republican, in all likelihood former President Donald Trump. Similar concerns have been raised about potential independent campaigns by the bipartisan group No Labels, which has met with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, as well as Green Party candidate, the public academic Cornel West.

“It would be very bad” if Kennedy runs as a Libertarian, said Matt Bennett, co-founder of the centrist Democratic group Third Way.

While trailing Biden by roughly 50 points in most Democratic primary polls, Kennedy could draw millions of votes as the Libertarian Party nominee given his high name recognition and national profile.

Even though he continues to say he plans to remain in the Democratic race, Kennedy recently told a South Carolina voter he was keeping “all my options open” amid Democratic National Committee rule changes that, he argues, are aimed at excluding him.