Some members of the Kennedy family released a joint statement in response calling his announcement “deeply saddening” and “perilous for our country.”
“Bobby might share the same name as our father, but he does not share the same values, vision or judgment,” read the statement from Rory Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Joseph P Kennedy II and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. However, his children are supportive of his bid, and his daughter-in-law, Amaryllis Fox, is a co-manager of his campaign.
The environmental justice lawyer-turned-politician has long expressed frustration with the primary process in interviews. His campaign manager, former Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, advocated for a more competitive primary in a letter to the Democratic National Committee last month. And the Super PAC supporting Kennedy even protested outside a recent DNC meeting in Washington to show its discontent.
Those efforts didn’t change anything, and now Kennedy is pursuing an independent bid.
In primary polling, Kennedy has about 14 percent support on average. Critics of the long-shot candidate say his polling dropped noticeably among Democratic primary voters as they got to know Kennedy more, including his skepticism on vaccines. One survey of voters found that nearly half of respondents were confusing Kennedy with his father, Robert Kennedy Sr., the popular late senator from New York.
But Kennedy’s appeal might be stronger outside of Democratic primary voters. In the weeks leading up to Kennedy’s announcement — as he grew more public about his frustrations — some pollsters tested Kennedy in a general election matchup against Biden and former President Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner.
The Super PAC supporting Kennedy, American Values 2024, released polling showing that Kennedy had the potential to pull more support from Trump than Biden in a three-way race. And an independent poll from Ipsos also gave Kennedy about 14 percent support from a survey of 1,005 American adults, drawing from both Biden and Trump’s head-to-head support percentages. Kennedy, 69, threw barbs at both during his speech.
“Both of them have favorability ratings that are deep in negative territory,” Kennedy said. “That’s what two party politics has given us.”
Kennedy has also proven to be an effective fundraiser in the race. From his announcement in April through the end of June, his campaign committee has raised $6.3 million, on par with a recent quarterly total from Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Another impressive haul is expected for the third quarter of this year, which included a multimillion-dollar fundraiser with a rock concert performance from Eric Clapton and a blockbuster day of testimony from Kennedy on Capitol Hill.
Around 400 people gathered to greet Kennedy outside the National Constitution Center on Monday, chanting “RFK, all the way” and “Robby” in front of a stage adorned with Kennedy 2024 banners displaying the tagline, “Declare Your Independence.” To cheering from the audience, he charged into a populist message in his announcement, denouncing corporations, the media and political elites having together corrupted the government.
American Values 2024, which collects donations separate from the campaign, announced that it raised $5 million the day Kennedy testified. This would add to the almost $10 million that the PAC has reported raising though the end of June.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel blasted Kennedy’s announcement on Monday, questioning whether he could actually run as an independent given his support of many liberal causes.
“RFK Jr. cannot hide from his record of endorsing Hillary, supporting the Green New Deal, fighting against the Keystone Pipeline, and praising AOC’s tax hikes — he is your typical liberal and voters won’t be fooled,” she wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
The Kennedy campaign has also expanded its field operations in the weeks leading up to today’s announcement. Kennedy most recently went to the UAW strike picket line in Michigan and has also made campaign stops in Georgia, Texas, California and South Carolina. He has campaign offices in South Carolina and New Hampshire and a headquarters in New Jersey.
With polls showing a close presidential election on the horizon, he wasn’t shy about the reality that his candidacy could disrupt the race.
“The Democrats are frightened that I’m gonna spoil the election for President Biden,” Kennedy said. “And the Republicans are frightened that I’m gonna spoil it for President Trump. The truth is, they’re both right: My intention is to spoil it for both of them.”