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Kennedy, the Political Outsider: The Appeal of RFK, Jr. in the 2024 Election

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It might seem strange to call a member of the Kennedy family "a political outsider," and yet Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s outsider label is fueling his quest for the White House this year.

Kennedy's supporters see a man who speaks the truth and is running against "the system."  

Kennedy has told supporters, "I know that when I get into the White House, I can give you back your country."

In an age when trust in government is seen as having reached a low point, Kennedy is attracting both Republicans and Democrats. 

We met some of those supporters at an RFK meetup in Virginia Beach and heard the words "honesty" and "integrity" often.

"What do I like about Kennedy? I like that he's honest. He's a good man," one prospective voter told us.

"I actually believe what he says," another supporter said.

"He's an honest candidate. He's very truthful and that's something that we haven't seen in recent years in candidates."

Jonathan Cooper, who is following the campaign for the Associated Press, says, "A lot of Kennedy supporters feel like he's a truth-teller who's willing to say things that other politicians won't say. They are disaffected. They feel alienated from the government. They feel like the major institutions in this country are not responsive to the people, the media, corporations, the government. And they feel like Kennedy gives voice to that perspective."

While Kennedy's role as an outsider makes him a long shot, it's also part of his appeal, and he's polling stronger than any third-party candidate in decades. 

Kennedy has been polling a very respectable 10 to 13 percent. Yet it's not yet clear whether Kennedy would pull more votes away from Biden or Trump. 

Hanna Trudo at The Hill says, "He appeals to some folks on the right, some folks on the left. I spoke to somebody who said, 'I've met folks from the MAGA movement who like him. I've met folks from the Bernie movement who like him.'"

Polling by Ipsos shows that RFK supporters who have voted Republican in the past are more likely to be attracted to his stand against illegal immigration and foreign military involvement. 

One of those supporters told us, "What I like about Kennedy? He's against all the foreign wars that we get involved in. Also, on border policies."

His Democrat supporters are more likely to view his work as an environmental lawyer and his stance on abortion as top issues. 

One of his liberal supporters said, "I like what he says about what he says about abortion. I like what he says about keeping the earth clean, keeping our food clean." 

Yet Kennedy's position on abortion is unclear. He said on a podcast he would support full-term abortions, but his campaign says he only supports abortion until fetal viability, about 24 weeks. Kennedy's official website calls for fewer abortions through adoption, and a "massive, subsidized daycare initiative."  

Others are attracted to Kennedy's stance against vaccines. While he maintains he's not anti-vaccine, he's also said vaccines are not safe and effective.  

Trudo says, "There's a third faction who he's hoping to appeal to which doesn't get as much attention, but that's voters who are totally disengaged from the process. They might not even be considered voters until perhaps this election." 

Kennedy's supporters also see him as someone who could unify a very divided nation. 

One supporter told us, "He wants to heal the divide, which I really appreciate." Another said, "I truly believe he can unite America."

Kennedy told his supporters, "If I can persuade the American public to vote out of hope, to vote out of a faith in their future, to vote after a vision for this country that they can be proud of, that they can believe in... If I can convince them of that, the American people, then I win the election easily."

Although some believe Kennedy chose his running mate, wealthy Silicon Valley lawyer and philanthropist Nicole Shanahan, for her checkbook, that hasn't seemed to dampen his support significantly. And as things stand, another Kennedy is set to make an impact and possibly influence the outcome of a presidential election.

 

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About The Author

Dale
Hurd

Since joining CBN News, Dale has reported extensively from Western Europe, as well as China, Russia, and Central and South America. Dale also covered China's opening to capitalism in the early 1990s, as well as the Yugoslav Civil War. CBN News awarded him its Command Performance Award for his reporting from Moscow and Sarajevo. Since 9/11, Dale has reported extensively on various aspects of the global war on terror in the United States and Europe. Follow Dale on Twitter @dalehurd and "like" him at Facebook.com/DaleHurdNews.