The Kennedy Factor

Since Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. announced that his presidential candidacy would move to the Independent line and away from the Democratic primary, it has been an exercise to predict which states his candidacy might detract from either President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump.

Assuming Mr. Kennedy also fails to win a state there are certain places where his candidacy could still affect the outcome. This means capturing enough votes to tip a state from one of the major party candidates to the other. Using the 1992 race as a model for 2024 because of the minor candidate factor, overlaid with current voting trends, it appears that six states could be in the “Kennedy tip” category.

Such includes four from Biden to Trump; one from Trump to Biden; and one Trump “gettable” state to Biden. Thus, the Kennedy influence could be enough to slightly tip the national general election to Mr. Trump or into the House of Representatives to break a tie.

The four states that could flip to Mr. Trump are Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire. In 1992, former President George H.W. Bush carried Arizona, and to win this election Mr. Trump is virtually forced to also reverse his fortune from 2020 and carry the Grand Canyon State. In ’92, Mr. Bush won the state with a two-point margin over Mr. Clinton, while Mr. Perot attracted 23.8%. While the ’92 race occurred decades ago, the in-play states still exhibit the potential to provide a large number of votes to a minor party or Independent candidate, especially one with universal name identification.

Georgia is a state that must go to Trump if he is to have any chance of winning the general election. In 1992, Mr. Clinton carried the Peach State by less than one percentage point, while Mr. Perot garnered 13.3% of the vote.

Mr. Clinton carried the Silver State of Nevada with a three-point margin while Mr. Perot’s vote total was 26.2%. Should Mr. Kennedy also finish within the Perot vote total realm, it is reasonable to believe that more than a net three percentage point margin would come from President Joe Biden’s total, which would likely be enough for Mr. Trump to win Nevada and add six electoral votes to his total.

New Hampshire, rated as one of the nation’s states with the greatest swing potential, also falls into the Kennedy tip category. Mr. Clinton defeated President Bush here by 1.3 percentage points in ’92, with a 22.6% vote factor for Mr. Perot. Again, Mr. Kennedy obtaining well over 20% in New Hampshire, a New England state with a strong history of supporting his family, could tip the state’s four electoral votes to Mr. Trump. Only two points more from Kennedy’s aggregate would have to come from Biden’s total for Trump to win the state.

Alaska, however, with its Ranked Choice Voting system, could be a state that Kennedy’s presence could tip to Mr. Biden. The Ranked Choice Voting system has played to the Democrats’ favor here, and it may so again should the Kennedy factor be high enough to force the race leader below the 50% mark in order to jump start the ranking procedure.

Finally, Wisconsin will be a major state in the ’24 election. In 1992, it also demonstrated a higher than average vote for Mr. Perot (21.5%). Mr. Clinton carried Wisconsin with a 4.3 victory margin. These totals suggest that Mr. Kennedy finishing in the Badger State’s Perot realm would likely help President Biden.

The above scenario, assuming all other states voted as they did in the 2020 presidential race, would actually create an electoral college tie. Adding Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire and giving up Alaska would give both candidates 269 electoral votes, meaning the election would be decided in the House of Representatives.

Mr. Kennedy’s performance in these and several other states could well change the trajectory of the entire presidential race and becomes just one more unique factor in this so far unpredictable campaign.

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