Environmental lawyer and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced Monday he is running for president as an independent, officially ending his bid to defeat President Joe Biden in the Democratic primary and moving on to the general election.
“I’m here to declare myself an independent candidate for president of the United States,” Kennedy said in a speech in Philadelphia.
Kennedy’s announcement follows weeks of speculation about his future in the 2024 field. previously reported that Kennedy met with the chairman of the Liberal Party earlier this year to discuss their shared beliefs. Last week, the super PAC backing Kennedy’s presidential bid released the results of a poll they conducted that tested Kennedy’s strength in a hypothetical three-way race between Biden and former President Donald Trump. .
The campaign will hold a series of events in Texas, Florida and Georgia later this month and has pledged to travel “everywhere” before next year’s election, a campaign official told . The official said the campaign is confident it will have ballot access in every state by November 2024.
Independent and third-party candidates have struggled to gain substantial support in presidential elections in the past. In 1992, Texas businessman Ross Perot ran for one of the most successful independent presidential candidates in recent history, receiving 8% of the vote in the election that was ultimately won by Bill Clinton. .
Kennedy’s campaign as an independent could complicate an already close general election race. A Reuters/Ipsos poll of likely voters last week in a hypothetical three-way Biden, Trump and Kennedy race found that 14% of voters supported Kennedy, with 40% supporting Trump and 38% supporting Biden. . With the election still more than a year away, it’s unclear whether the Kennedy campaign can translate this level of support into votes in November 2024.
“Voters should not be deceived by anyone pretending to be conservative values. In fact, Kennedy has a troubling background filled with radical liberal positions,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement. The statement criticized Kennedy’s stance on China, guns, the environment and abortion. “… To the liberal Kennedys, Robert F. Kennedy’s campaign was nothing more than a vanity project designed to cash in on the family’s fame.”
Trump’s allies and advisers have been conducting opposition research on Kennedy, intending to go on the offensive, painting Kennedy as a “liberal marcher in conservative guise,” one adviser told , noting that he Past record as an environmental activist.
Kennedy first launched his campaign to defeat Biden in the Democratic primary in April and has frequently visited early primary states such as New Hampshire and South Carolina. But his efforts did not sway Democratic primary voters. In a poll released by and the University of New Hampshire in September, only 9% of likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire expressed support for Kennedy.
The Republican National Committee issued a statement ahead of Kennedy’s announcement, describing him as “another radical far-left Democrat.”
Kennedy is the son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy and the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy. Some of his siblings issued a joint statement Monday calling his decision to run against Biden in the general election “a danger to our country.”
“Bobby may share our father’s name, but he does not have the same values, vision, or judgment. We are deeply saddened by today’s announcement. We condemn his candidacy and believe it is dangerous for our country, Rory Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy II and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said in a statement.
Kennedy never held public office, but he inspired a small group of supporters by advocating against public health directives and the influence of money on decisions by government and private companies. Kennedy founded Children’s Health Defense, which regularly spreads anti-vaccine misinformation and promotes anti-vaccination conspiracy theories on the campaign trail.
Attendees at Monday’s event spanned the ideological spectrum, with conservatives, liberals and independents gathering in Philadelphia to bear witness to the news.
Walter Rodriguez, an independent teacher from New Jersey, said he planned to support Kennedy if he were on the ballot in his home state. Otherwise, he said, he wouldn’t have voted at all.
“I’m excited about the energy they bring as candidates, and I think some of the things he’s talking about are things that I identify with,” Rodriguez said. “Don’t rely too much on the central government to control everything, including medicine and politics. Therefore, he declared his independence today. This is the right path.”
Karl Hagstrom came to Philadelphia from Westchester County, New York. He said he supported Trump in 2016 and 2020, but said he planned to support Kennedy in 2024. He said he was attracted to Kennedy because he felt the political outsider could bring unity to the country, unlike Trump, who he believed was too divisive.
“It’s just constant craziness, tweets, negativity, extreme reactions to things. It’s not sustainable, it doesn’t bring people together,” Hagstrom said.
Sarah Schulman drove to the event with a group of supporters from the Boston area. Schulman, a practicing pediatrician, attended Kennedy’s Democratic campaign launch event in Boston in April and said Kennedy’s anti-corruption message and his stance on vaccines inspired her to support him. She said she voted for Biden in 2020 and never considered supporting the Republican Party, but has felt disconnected from his message since he took office.
“He spoke our language,” Schulman said of Kennedy. “A Democrat, a liberal-minded person who is compassionate, caring and reasonable.”
This story has been updated with additional reporting.