It’s not just RFK Jr.: Biden faces serious danger from third-party candidates

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

It’s not just RFK Jr.: Biden faces serious danger from third-party candidates

Election 2024

Doyle McManus

April 8, 2024

President Biden is facing several challenges in his campaign to win a second term, and not all of them are named Donald Trump.

Millions of voters are dissatisfied with the candidates of both major parties, prompting many to flirt with independent or third-party candidates instead.

A Quinnipiac poll last month found that when voters were given a choice of five candidates instead of two, 20% chose someone other than Biden or Trump. Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was the choice of 13%, followed by Green Party candidate Jill Stein,

with bee

4%, and independent socialist

[thats how he describes himself]

Cornel West,



If this campaign follows the historical pattern, those numbers will drop by Election Day, said Doug Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac Poll. But even if support for third-party candidates shrinks at the ballot box, single-digit support could be a tipping point, he noted.

That worries Democrats, especially about Kennedy.

In a three-way race, Trump wins because Biden’s floor is quite soft, said Matt Bennett, executive vice president

for public affairs on from

Third Way, a democratic centrist group. “If Kennedy or other candidates win even a small percentage, they can influence the election.”

The last two presidential elections illustrate this point.

In 2016 it was 6%


voters cast ballots for third-party and write-in candidates. In the decisive swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, as a candidate for the Green Party


Stein’s votes had gone to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

the last Clinton

the White House would have won.

In 2020, by contrast, the third-party share of the national vote fell to 2%. Voters opposed to then-President Trump rallied behind a single candidate, Joe Biden.

Hey Biden

won the swing states and thus the presidency.

The Democrats’ problem is that 2024 is starting to look like 2016.

Kennedy is the biggest challenge. With his famous name


Thanks to his Democratic pedigree and a healthy fundraising organization, he is polling stronger than any independent candidate since Ross Perot, the data processing magnate who won 19% of the vote in 1992.

Like Perot, Kennedy denounces both major political parties and draws support from voters on both sides.

Kennedy’s views are an amalgam of conspiracy theories and populism. Hi there


said vaccines cause autism, that immunization against COVID-19 is the deadliest vaccine ever created and that chemicals in tap water can cause children to question their gender.

He wants the federal government to offer free childcare, lower mortgage rates and push for cleaner energy. He wants to end military aid to Ukraine, but strongly supports Israel’s war in Gaza.

Last week, Kennedy said he considers Biden a greater threat to democracy than Trump.

That’s because Biden has used federal agencies to censor political speech, he said, referring to government requests for social media companies to remove medical misinformation from their platforms.

Kennedy Hey

later amended his statement to say he considers neither Biden nor Trump a threat to democracy.

The Democratic National Committee is inaugurated


communications blitz to warn disgruntled Democrats that the independent is not their kind of Kennedy and that a vote for RFK Jr. is in fact a vote for Trump.

People hear the last name and assume it tells them something about his policy positions and who he is funded by, a DNC official said.

Michigan Senator Mallory McMorrow said in a call organized by the DNC that she believes


the election

would like

would be decided by “a few thousand votes” and suggested that RFK Jr., with no realistic path to the presidency, is merely acting as a spoiler.

“What he really is … is Donald Trump with a Kennedy name stuck on him,” she said.

He’s turning to Trump’s megadonors to really support this spoiler campaign, said Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Long Beach). Maybe he wants Trump re-elected. We’re not sure.

Trump seems to agree.

I love that he’s running! the former president wrote on his social media feed

[March 27]

. It’s great for MAGA.

But Kennedy isn’t Biden’s only third-party problem. The president could also lose votes to Stein or West, both of whom have criticized him from the left.

Stein has been a fierce critic of Biden’s military aid to Israel during the Gaza war, and her Green Party is already on the ballot in Michigan, which has the largest concentration of Arab-American voters in the country. West, who is running as an independent candidate, faces a more difficult road to gaining voting rights in many states.

The Quinnipiac poll found that Kennedy’s support comes about equally from voters who would otherwise prefer Biden or Trump, but support for Stein and West comes mostly from voters who would otherwise support Biden.

So in an election that could be decided by razor-thin margins, Biden’s challenge won’t just come from Trump; he needs to bring voters back from Kennedy and also from Stein and West.


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