RFK Jr. may reach discussion stage, regardless of worms: CNN analysis

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/File

Kennedy Jr. listens as he presents during the World Values ​​Network’s Presidential Candidate Series at Glasshouse on July 25, 2023 in New York City.


The 2024 election cycle got even weirder this week when it was open That independent candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., once walked into a worm and it ate part of his brain. Kennedy, who says he has recovered from his worm infections, continued To claim That he could eat “5 more brain worms and still beat” former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden in a debate.

Stories and quotes like these might make you think Kennedy is just a sideshow in this election year, but nothing could be further from the truth.

a look at Ballot It reveals that Kennedy is doing better than any independent candidate since Ross Perot in 1996, although many of his supporters are unsure what he stands for. He may do what Perot failed to do before him in 1996: hold the fall debates against the party’s major candidates.

Last week, a CNN/SSRS poll made news by painting a bleak picture of Biden. He trailed Trump by six points in a head-to-head matchup. Trump’s lead jumped to 9 points over Biden when Kennedy, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and independent Cornel West were included in the ballot test. Less well known is that Kennedy received 16% in the poll.

There has not been a single poll in which Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in 2000 or Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson in 2016 received this level of support.

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This 16% is important because the ballot threshold for candidates will be included in the presidential debates in the fall He was 15% over the past 24 years. While other polls were not as kind to Kennedy, almost all of them had him achieving double digits when a definite choice.

(To reach the debate stage, candidates must also appear on state ballots totaling at least 270 electoral votes. This Seems more than doable For Kennedy.)

The poll average will be key because Kennedy would need to get 15% on average to make the debates. Kennedy’s approval rating so far has averaged about 13% in polls conducted by media entities that the committee included in its 2020 average.

I would like to point out that the third party and independent candidates tend to see Their polls declined during the election campaign. This year, I’m not sure it’s anywhere near as guaranteed as both Biden and Trump have been Much higher Negative reviews outnumber positive reviews.

However, Kennedy is relatively unknown. An NBC News poll, which explicitly offers “neutral” and “don’t know” as an option, found that a majority (39%) said either “neutral” or “don’t know” when voters evaluated Kennedy. Of those with a positive or negative opinion, 29% gave a negative opinion and 32% gave a positive opinion.

This net rating of -3 points was actually the best of any public figure NBC News tested in this poll. Trump and Biden scored -15 points and -14 net points, respectively.

But since 39% of voters don’t yet have an opinion of Kennedy — either positive or negative — his rating is best described as “weak.”

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In fact, I’m not even sure his supporters or potential supporters understand his platform. Kennedy was rebuked by many for his unfounded views Vaccines And Covid-19. That was one of the first things he wrote about when he announced his run for president last year.

newly Monmouth University survey He informed voters that Kennedy “supports claims that autism is linked to vaccines and has said that Covid is targeted to attack people of certain races” and asked them if they were aware of these positions before taking the poll.

Only 55% of voters were aware of Kennedy’s beliefs. Even more interesting is that only 27% of people who said they would definitely or would support Kennedy indicated that they were aware of these positions. The vast majority (73%) did not.

In other words, people who were potential Kennedy supporters did not know what many people would consider an essential part of his portfolio. Voters who knew more about Kennedy’s positions were the ones who said they would definitely vote against him.

Now, Kennedy voters are very likely to stick with him the more they hear about his positions. (The Monmouth poll suggested this was a real possibility.) For many, Kennedy may be about more than just his stance on the vaccine.

The truth is that A few However, some of its potential supporters were aware of the vaccine and statements regarding Covid-19, pointing to the fact that it remains largely undetermined. He may be more likely to attack opponents’ ads than the typical presidential candidate.

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This is consistent with what we saw Trump and his supporters: They’re after Kennedy.

After all, national polls mostly showed Kennedy voters favoring Trump over Biden, but not uniformly. With the average of the last CNN and Quinnipiac University Polls show that Trump received low double figures in a two-man race between those who chose Kennedy when third-party and independent candidates were included.

This may not seem like a lot, and it usually won’t be. But in a country where elections have been so close recently, anything small can make a difference.

Don’t expect Biden or Trump to let Kennedy surprise them. For now, Kennedy remains a viable option for many Americans. We’ll see if it stays that way.

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