Is Kennedy a Threat?

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. continues to mount a challenge to President Joe Biden, and three new Democratic primary polls were recently released, two national and one in California, providing new benchmarks.

While Mr. Kennedy is not even within shouting distance of the President in any of the polls, they do, however, again largely show that the incumbent is not universally accepted within his own party.

The Issues & Insights TIPP poll (5/31-6/2; 1,230 registered voters likely to vote in a Democratic primary; online) finds President Biden topping Mr. Kennedy, 68-12%, with 4% going to author Marianne Williamson.

The Suffolk University poll conducted for USA Today (6/5-9; 293 likely Democratic primary voters) projects Mr. Biden with only 58% support, while Mr. Kennedy captures 15% and Ms. Williamson 6 percent. The small national sample, however, might even be considered small for a congressional district let alone the entire country. Therefore, the accuracy level pertaining to this data must be considered questionable.

Emerson College sampled the California electorate (6/4-7; 1,056 CA registered voters; multiple sampling techniques) and posts President Biden with a 72-17-7% advantage over Kennedy and Williamson in the Golden State primary.

The polls are consistent with other data conducted in May, from Fox News and CNN, that also showed President Biden hovering around the 60% mark with the combined number against him in the 20-range.

While it is clear President Biden would have little to worry about in terms of winning the party nomination, one might wonder whether the approximate 20% of Democrats choosing another candidate and an additional 20% who claim to be undecided would spell trouble for him in the general election.

The answer is unlikely if former President Donald Trump were the Republican nominee, but slippage might be possible if the GOP chooses another standard bearer. Additionally, how motivated said 40% of the Democratic primary base would be to vote in the presidential contest could conceivably be an issue. While turnouts have been at record highs in the last two presidential elections, over 60% of the voting public saying they want another choice in 2024 rather than Biden and Trump, thus participation fall-off would seem possible.

Back to the Democratic primary, we must remember that the nomination contest is fought in the states and not a national election. Therefore, national popularity polls aren’t particularly useful.

Looking at the new Democratic primary schedule, we see the party’s first vote coming in South Carolina on February 3rd. This is a Biden stronghold, and the principal reason the President wanted to eschew Iowa and New Hampshire to first vote in the Palmetto State.

Since New Hampshire will not go along with the new Democratic schedule, it will be interesting to see if President Biden will participate. It is conceivable, and such a move is already underway in Iowa, that the party may simply skip the primary contest and award its delegate votes to President Biden. Both parties in certain states have used such a practice when they have an incumbent President seeking renomination.

A total of 21 states are scheduled to cast their Democratic primary votes between February 3rd and Super Tuesday on March 5th. A contingent of 1,969 delegates will be apportioned through the 21 states, or 43.6% of the entire Democratic delegate universe of 4,518. It takes 2,260 votes to win the presidential nomination.

Of the 21 early voting states, it would appear that Mr. Kennedy, who says he is running a 50-state campaign, could have a reason to target 17 places that comprise this group. Included is the Kennedy family’s home state of Massachusetts (116 delegates) and five southern states where his message could conceivably attract votes. Two other New England states, Maine and Vermont (56 combined delegates), are also part of Super Tuesday. He might also draw votes in Alaska, California, Nevada, Texas, and Utah.

Should Mr. Kennedy exceed expectations, his national campaign might not end when President Biden seals the Democratic nomination. At that time, meaning after Super Tuesday, we could see discussion about Mr. Kennedy landing on the No Labels Party ticket and advancing into the general election as a significant third party candidate who would likely be included in debates. The NLP will choose its nominee, if they ultimately decided to field a candidate, at their national assemblage in Dallas on April 14-15.

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