The excellent news for President Biden’s just-launched 2024 reelection bid is that, for now, it doesn’t seem as if it’s going to embody a critical major challenger. The dangerous information is that he’s ceding a major and doubtlessly embarrassing chunk of voters to an anti-vaccine activist.

A number of current polls present Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pulling double-digit assist within the major, together with a Fox Information survey Wednesday that confirmed him at 19 p.c.

That community has ceaselessly coated Kennedy’s marketing campaign and interviewed him greater than as soon as over the previous week or so, as sure Republicans have made clear they see utility in elevating Kennedy to undercut Biden.

How a lot would possibly the candidacy really undercut Biden? It’s in all probability value not overselling the early polls, for a couple of causes.

The Nationwide Assessment this week revealed an article suggesting that such a double-digit efficiency from Kennedy may show pricey for Biden. No incumbent president previously 50 years has ceded that a lot of the vote to a major challenger and received reelection, it famous.

That’s technically true, nevertheless it ignores a complete lot of nuance.

The primary level is that we’re speaking a few small pattern measurement. There have been solely three such cases, all greater than 30 years in the past: Ronald Reagan’s 1976 problem to Gerald Ford, Ted Kennedy’s 1980 problem to Jimmy Carter, and Pat Buchanan’s 1992 problem to George H.W. Bush.

However every of these major challenges was additionally extra vital than even the early polls recommend Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s is. Reagan took almost half of major votes in 1976, Ted Kennedy took greater than one-third, and Buchanan received a shocking 37 p.c of the vote within the 1992 New Hampshire major and about one-quarter total. Within the first two instances particularly, there was real concern concerning the incumbent dropping the nomination, not simply dropping a considerably embarrassing variety of votes.

The subsequent level is that, in case you hadn’t observed, a kind of earlier major challengers shared a final identify with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The newest Kennedy is Ted’s and John F. Kennedy’s nephew and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s son.

There’s loads of purpose to imagine his early ballot standing is considerably inflated by his well-known identify.

Just a few weeks in the past, one other ballot on Kennedy caught my eye. It was from YouGov, and it examined his picture alongside a dozen different political figures. Of the 13 examined together with Biden, Trump and congressional leaders, who was the most well-liked? Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Practically half of Individuals had a good view of him (48 p.c), in contrast with simply 28 p.c unfavorable.

Is that this as a result of Kennedy is definitely that well-liked? After all not. It’s uncertain many individuals actually know all that a lot about him.

However there’s in all probability no identify in American politics that’s extra golden, notably amongst left-leaning Individuals. A Gallup ballot final decade discovered extra Individuals thought John F. Kennedy was a superb president (74 p.c) than another fashionable president.

Once you layer on prime of that the truth that half of Democrats don’t even need Biden to run, it shouldn’t be too shocking {that a} honest quantity of people that haven’t actually thought-about the 2024 race would possibly go for a reputation they know.

We should always all be skeptical that this may maintain, notably given Kennedy is best-known for his dubiously based vaccine skepticism and that Democrats are more and more the get together of vaccines. That doesn’t imply dropping voters to such a fringe determine isn’t a headache for Biden, and maybe some voters would possibly like Kennedy’s environmental activism. However the concept Kennedy will strategy even a Buchanan degree of assist appears unlikely, the early polls however.

Extra seemingly, it appears, is that this is likely to be a scenario akin to 1996. Then, as at present, many Democrats didn’t need Invoice Clinton to run once more, and fringe determine Lyndon LaRouche managed to tug double digits in some major states. A Chicago girl who reportedly believed that God advised her to spend a $120,000 incapacity settlement to run for president took 11 p.c in Oklahoma. (Clinton went on to win reelection simply regardless of this.)

We’ve really seen very lately how this exact identify can translate right into a sugar excessive within the polls.

The 2017 Alabama U.S. Senate particular election featured a candidate by the identify of Robert Kennedy Jr. (no precise relation this time). And a late Democratic major ballot confirmed him with a surprising share of the vote: 49 p.c. That was greater than 20 factors forward of the nationwide get together’s favored candidate, Doug Jones, regardless of Kennedy not seeming to have run an precise marketing campaign.

“I perceive that my identify will give me some factors,” that Robert Kennedy Jr. mentioned when the ballot got here out. “However to recommend that my identify in that individual ballot gave me 49 factors is disrespectful to the voters.”

Three weeks later, he obtained 18 p.c of the vote, dropping to Jones by almost 50 factors.

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