Independent 2024 presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. snagged a substantial 22% support in a new three-way poll pitting him against President Biden and former President Trump. Perhaps more significantly, he was the top choice among independents.
In a Quinnipiac University survey taken Oct. 26-30:, a three-way match-up had Biden at 39%, Trump at 36% and RFK Jr at 22%. Kennedy won the independent vote, backed by 36% compared to 31% choosing Trump and 30% Biden. The sampling error is plus or minus 2.4%. Kennedy also won in a key Democratic demographic: younger voters. Those between 18 and 34 broke down as 38% for Kennedy, 32% Biden and 27% Trump.
Quinnipiac's results seem to indicate that Kennedy may draw at little more support from Trump than Biden. In a head-to-head, Biden only wins by 1 point, but in a three-way match-up he tops Trump by 3. That's consistent with what other polls have portrayed.
That hypothesis is reinforced by a Politico analysis of campaign contributions that found Kennedy getting more donations from past Trump donors than Biden donors. Fitting for a candidate striving to shake up the two-party duopoly, most of Kennedy's large-dollar contributions came from people who hadn't made any donations at all in the 2020 or 2016 elections.
When Quinnipiac threw Cornel West into the mix, the results were Biden 36%, Trump 35%, Kennedy 19%, West 6%.
Aside from adding to the 2024 electoral intrigue, Kennedy's poll performance suggests he could qualify to be on the general election debate stage next fall, which would add to his candidacy's sense of viability among the public, and give him a chance to contrast himself with two politicians many Americans have had enough of.
There's only one scenario that could make a crank like RFK Jr. president; the two major parties would have to present nominees so decrepit or unpopular or unstable or embarrassing that -- hang on, I'm being handed a note ...https://t.co/zmR65ph06b— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) November 1, 2023
In the 2020 cycle, the Commission on Federal Debates' criteria required candidates to "have a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate, as determined by five national public opinion polling organizations."
Then again, there may be no general election debates at all. In April 2022, the RNC announced it was withdrawing from the Commission on Presidential Debates, a joint oligopoly of the Republican and Democratic parties. "The Commission on Presidential Debates is biased and has refused to enact simple and commonsense reforms to help ensure fair debates," said RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel at the time.
The RNC has since been contacting networks to explore the potential for debates operated under a different framework -- one that would have to gain the approval of the Democratic Party. Of course, given Biden's obvious, ongoing mental and physical decline, the DNC may find that having no debates at all is a welcome idea.