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Trump RFK Jr

As the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump is trying to do some damage control.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has announced his running mate for 2024 — tech executive Nicole Shanahan — and Trump is fuming. RFK Jr. initially launched his campaign as a Democrat, albeit one running on many right-wing policies, including the promulgation of anti-vax conspiracy theories, before shifting to an independent campaign.

Kennedy could draw votes from both major party candidates, especially with the both-sides-equally-bad narratives running rampant right now. But Trump’s response seems to suggest he’s very worried that he could be the one hurt.

Trump raged at the news that Kennedy had been the first to announce his VP pick, and frantically assured anyone who would listen that Kennedy — who is running on a platform that includes sealing the border, and stopping tech from “censoring” with shadowbans — is actually “radical left.” He posted:

‘RFK Jr. is the most Radical Left Candidate in the race, by far…I guess this would mean he is going to be taking votes from Crooked Joe Biden, which would be a great service to America. His running mate, Nicole Shanahan, is even more “Liberal” than him, if that’s possible. Kennedy is a Radical Left Democrat, and always will be!!!”

He went on to posit that RFK Jr. will be indicted for “environmental fraud” any day now. Trump maintains that the only reason he himself is facing criminal charges is because he’s running against Biden, not because of his actual actions.

Analysts aren’t so sure, though, that Biden is the one hurt by Kennedy’s presence in the race. Only a few polls have actually tested it, FiveThirtyEight analyst Nathaniel Rakich explains, and while they do show a slight increase for Trump compared to polls just running him head-to-head against Biden, it’s not a clear change. According to his analysis for ABC:

“In fact, there’s one good reason to think that Kennedy could actually hurt the GOP nominee more than the Democratic one: He’s a lot more popular with Republicans than with Democrats…That’s because Kennedy holds a number of beliefs that put him closer to the Republican base than the Democratic one. Most famously, he is a vocal skeptic of vaccines, but he has also said that gun control does not meaningfully reduce gun violence and opposes aiding Ukraine in its war against Russia.”

Rakich also notes that the change RFK Jr. makes in polls is so minimal it could be within the margin of error and that third-party candidates rarely take enough votes to really alter an election.

Trump’s posting, though, seems to suggest he’s worried. And the effects of the candidacies of Ralph Nader and Jill Stein in previous elections indicate that he may have good reason to be.

Stephanie Bazzle
Steph Bazzle is a news writer who covers politics and theocracy, always aiming for a world free from extremism and authoritarianism. Follow Steph on Twitter @imjustasteph. Sign up for all of her stories to be delivered to your inbox here:

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