RFK’s Campaign Faces Yet Another Hurdle

lev radin / shutterstock.com
lev radin / shutterstock.com

First, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. got snubbed from the first presidential debate. Now, his campaign seems to be running on fumes. Despite his bold rhetoric and family name, Kennedy’s independent bid for the White House faces major hurdles he can’t seem to overcome.

Being left out of CNN’s presidential debate alongside President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump was a significant blow. The debate would have given Kennedy a prime platform to present himself as a viable alternative to the two major party candidates. However, he failed to meet CNN’s requirement of 15% in four national polls. He didn’t secure enough state ballots to theoretically amass 270 Electoral College votes.

Kennedy didn’t take this setback quietly. He accused Presidents Biden and Trump of conspiring to keep him off the debate stage, claiming CNN illegally agreed to their demands. He called his exclusion “undemocratic, un-American, and cowardly,” arguing that Americans want an independent leader to challenge the two-party system and address pressing issues like restoring the middle class and ending chronic diseases. Bold words, indeed, but his campaign has continued to struggle.

Kennedy’s team claims they have secured ballot access in nine states and collected enough signatures in 15 others. In theory, this would give him access to 323 electoral votes. Still, many of these states have yet to certify his eligibility. So far, only Delaware, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Utah, and Michigan have confirmed Kennedy will appear on their state ballots.

Public interest in an alternative to Trump and Biden has waned, and Kennedy’s poll numbers have dropped. He currently polls at 10.7% in a RealClearPolitics average of a three-way hypothetical matchup, down from 12.3% in late March. Other polls show him even lower, around 7.8%, down from 11.9% in late February.

Even if Kennedy had made the debate stage, political experts question whether it would have significantly boosted his campaign. Bernard Tamas, an expert on third-party politics, suggests that debates rarely offer lasting benefits to any candidate, especially third-party ones. Tamas also noted that Kennedy relies more on his famous name and general voter dissatisfaction than on compelling issues.

Kennedy’s campaign has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, accusing CNN of colluding with Biden and Trump to keep him off the debate stage. Despite more than 219,000 people signing a petition to support his inclusion, it appears unlikely that the FEC will intervene.

After being left out of the CNN debate, the Democratic National Committee mocked Kennedy’s campaign, highlighting his struggles with ballot access and fundraising. Kennedy’s campaign raised just $2.6 million in May, far behind Biden and Trump.

Despite these challenges, Kennedy still has a chance to make ABC News’s presidential debate on September 10, which has the exact requirements as the first debate. He reached 15% in three national polls and could meet the threshold before September.

Kennedy’s campaign is clearly in a tough spot. After being snubbed from the debate, his path to the presidency looks steeper than ever. Whether he can overcome these obstacles and remain a viable candidate remains to be seen.