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The RFK Jr. Question That Demands an Answer

As the independent candidate secures more ballot access, he can no longer be ignored.

The Robert F. Kennedy Jr. independent campaign for the presidency just scored another ballot access win, this time in California. This marks the third state in which his campaign declares it has achieved access – Utah and Michigan being the other two – and, according to reports, he is on track to nail down another seven. His candidacy has now moved from an ethereal dream of Camelot’s return into a reality that is causing nightmares for Republicans and Democrats alike. The question on everyone’s lips: How will an RFK Jr. bid impact the all-important Electoral College tally?

California Dreaming?

The Golden State is a deep-blue enclave that has – for more than three decades – chosen the Democrat candidate in every presidential election. It’s a safety net seat for Joe Biden that comes with a hefty 54 Electoral College votes (14 more than second-place Texas). But a week is a long time in politics, and three and a half years of mass illegal immigration and near-record-high inflation is an eternity.

Donald Trump lost California in 2016 by 30 points and more than 4 million votes and by more than 5 million in 2020. But remember, it wasn’t so long ago that Republicans had a solid run in the west coast behemoth. In fact, aside from Lyndon B. Johnson trouncing Barry Goldwater in 1964, the GOP had earned California’s favor in every presidential election since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, all the way through until Bill Clinton took back the crown in 1992.

Notable in Clinton’s first presidential victory — that swung the California pendulum back toward the Democrats — was that independent candidate Ross Perot pulled in nearly 19% of the vote share. George H.W. Bush lost by just over 13%.

Biden is facing record-low approval ratings and is a populist candidate who – if his running mate is any indication – comes from the left. While the likelihood of the incumbent losing California is mightily slim, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Biden’s vote share could be dramatically cut. Whether it would be enough to flip the winner-takes-all 54 Electoral College votes is, without doubt, causing sleepless nights in the West Wing.

RFK Jr. — No Buzz in the Beehive State

Utah has voted reliably red since the state decided “it liked Ike” in 1952 with (again) LBJ as the 1964 exception. In fact, other than that one outlier, each election has granted the GOP candidate at least a ten-point advantage (Nixon vs. JFK, 1960) and, in some cases, a win in the 50-point region (Reagan in 1980 and ‘84, and Romney in 2012). Can RFK Jr. make even the slightest bit of difference to the eventual tally?

GettyImages-2133187146 RFK Jr.

RFK Jr. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

It is worth noting that Utah was the first state to grant the Kennedy scion access, largely because its requirements for independent candidates are some of the least onerous in the nation. A 1,000-signature petition and $500 buy you a spot.

Utah has quite the recent history with independent candidates, including George Wallace in 1968 (6.3%), John Schmitz in 1972 (5.9%), John Anderson in 1980 (5%), Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 (27.3% and 9.9%, respectively), all the way up to Evan McMullin in 2016 who garnered a respectable 21.5%, coming in just six points behind second-place finisher Hillary Clinton.

In 2016 and 2020, Donald Trump won the Beehive State by 18 and 21 points. It is entirely conceivable that RFK Jr. will continue the tradition of independents polling well in this state – but will that make a difference to the final winner? History suggests not.

The Michigan Campaign Killer

RFK Jr. is also officially on the ballot in Michigan, a scenario that could prove pivotal in determining the eventual 2024 winner. Although Michigan is a perennial swing state, its voters have been a decisive factor in the last two contests, and this year will be no different.

The RealClearPolitics polling average currently has the former president beating the incumbent by 1.3%; while certainly a narrow aggregate, it hints at divisions within the traditionally Democrat electorate. During February’s Democratic Party primary, more than 100,000 left-leaning voters decided not to opt for a Democrat candidate, instead choosing to mark their ballots uncommitted. This protest against Biden’s continued (albeit vacillating) support for Israel could prove particularly damaging, especially considering Trump won the state in 2016 by roughly that margin.

In 1992, the Great Lake State swung for Bill Clinton by a margin of 5.5% against incumbent George H.W. Bush – Perot scored 19%. It’s a fair assumption that it would have stuck with the Republican upswing without the third-party independent spoiler. History could be about to repeat itself.

The National Overview

A plain look at the 1992 election numbers suggests that Perot’s bid cost George H.W. Bush his second term, ushering in Clinton. While that view is largely correct, it’s certainly not the whole story. In fact, a deep dive into exit polling indicates that a significant chunk of the Perot base would not have voted at all had he not been on the ballot. And this is why the RFK Jr. run at the Oval Office is so compelling.

Dissatisfaction with Biden is at a near-historic low. As Liberty Nation’s Executive Editor Leesa K. Donner recently reported:

“With just a 1% split between the parties, one of two things must happen: Either one party has to show up and vote in greater numbers than the other, or independents will have to make a clear choice between Biden and Trump. But with such lackluster numbers in Biden’s approval rating, it will be a heavy lift for his campaign.”

Biden won in 2020 despite Trump earning more votes than he did nationally in 2016 – there was no enthusiasm deficit for 45. Polling at a 70-year low for Biden, however, may mean that voters who would normally stay home, or vote for the Democrat candidate just to not vote for Trump, have another option.

It seems apathy or objection will be the decider of this coming election, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. appears ready to serve both up to his former party in spades.

Read More From Mark Angelides

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