Analysis: RFK Jr.’s Independent Presidential Bid Likely Hurts Biden, Helps Trump


OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

A new analysis by a pair of political consultants is good news for former President Donald Trump, as he looks to be on a path to a rematch against President Joe Biden next year.

Writing at The Daily Caller, Troy Olsen, an Army veteran and political author based in New York City, and Gavin Wax, a GOP strategist and executive director of the National Constitutional Law Union, note that there seems to be quite a bit of “chatter” claiming that Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s decision to leave the Democrat Party and run for president as an Independent will harm Trump’s chances rather than hurt Biden in terms of stripping away votes.

“While early polling on this question is not very numerous, there is little evidence for their argument and much evidence that an RFK Jr. independent run will hurt his party’s incumbent president,” they say.

“President Joe Biden is in a historically weak position. Arguably the weakest incumbent since President Carter or even before,” they added.

The two analysts, co-authors of the forthcoming book, “The Emerging Populist Majority,” note that historically, third-party and independent candidates that garner 5 percent support among voters hurt the incumbent president, functioning “similar to a viable primary challenge within the president’s party.”


“It weakens the president’s political standing. Arguments against this idea will cite the ideological orientation and similarities to anti-establishment populist candidates. The problem with this analysis is that independent voters are not nearly as ideological as the politicians and partisans who endlessly obsess over these details,” they added.

The analysts continue: “Independent and unaligned voters are all over the map ideologically. If they had a broad agreement, you would have an easier time building an actual third-party option around that, yet none has emerged despite attempt after attempt to do so. At a time when the American people report record dissatisfaction with institutions, political parties and the direction of the country, all of these factors play against the incumbent party. While Kennedy Jr. and Trump may agree on some of the most significant issues of our time, the reality is Kennedy Jr. is a pretty solid old-school liberal who today comes off as heterodox because the Democrat Party has moved on from liberalism across most dimensions.”

They then went on to give some instances of previous presidential elections where third-party candidates hurt the incumbent presidents:

— “In 1912, incumbent President William Howard Taft was done in by the Republican establishment Bull Moose split over Theodore Roosevelt’s attempt to rectify his mistake of retiring too early.”


— “Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond were no help to incumbent Harry Truman in 1948, and a Democratic vote split similar to the Republican one of 1912 in the incumbent party as the solid south left the New Deal coalition, an event the coalition has never recovered from.”

— “Even though he was a Republican in Congress, John Anderson proved to be no help for President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, vs. a challenging Republican in Ronald Reagan. In 1992, it’s been widely remarked that Ross Perot’s candidacy hurt incumbent Republican President George H.W. Bush.”

The analysts went on to say that in 2016, votes for Gary Johnson — who had previously served as a GOP governor — combined with liberal Jill Stein swung for Biden in 2020, “which means they could have just as well been decisive in 2016.”

They added that in the past, votes against the incumbent, for any reason, are likely part of a referendum and not always a choice.

“Rather than opine how Kennedy Jr., who will exhaust considerable resources to get on the ballot, will hurt or spoil the chances of reelection through a final round of misplaced Camelot nostalgia, the more interesting analysis will be where elections are decided — in the electoral college,” the write.

“And if Kennedy Jr. has no path to victory through the electoral college, much of his vote will likely come home to Trump and Biden near the end anyway,” the concluded.

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