Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump said he has respect for Democrat Robert F. Kennedy Jr. despite their political differences.
“I respect him—a lot of people respect him. He’s got some very important points to be made,” Trump told Newsmax’s Eric Bolling during a June 26 interview.
Kennedy is one of two candidates challenging President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, with the other being author Marianne Williamson.
Trump, who said he had known Kennedy for “a while,” added that he was impressed by Kennedy’s growing popularity in the polls.
“He’s at 21, 22 [percent] I saw just now,” Trump said. “And that’s a lot for somebody that came in with absolutely no chance of winning.”
According to the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls, Biden leads the Democratic primary field with 64 percent of the vote. Kennedy places a distant second at 14 percent.
Nevertheless, Trump said Biden has “very big problems” mentally and physically that could affect his candidacy.
“I really can’t tell you, that’s really the question; will he make it to the starting gate?”
Biden’s health has been an increasingly difficult obstacle for Democrats to ignore since his 2020 election campaign. From repeated trips and falls to mumbled sentences that seem to trail off, many have voiced doubts over whether the 80-year-old is still fit to hold office.
Meanwhile, Kennedy, 65, was the picture of health in a video he shared via Twitter on June 25, during which he did several shirtless pushups.
“Getting in shape for my debates with President Biden!” he wrote.
The message was a clear tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) reportedly has “no plans” to sponsor primary debates but will instead back Biden’s reelection.
Touching on that fact in his Newsmax interview, Trump said he believed the Democratic Party’s decision to forgo debates was a move to shield Biden.
“I just don’t think that they’ll allow him to debate anybody,” he said. “I mean, you could put up a child. I don’t think they’ll allow him to debate. They’re not going to allow it to happen.”
Kennedy has been vocal in his criticism of the DNC’s purported plans, noting that distrust of the U.S. election system is already running high among voters.
“Debates and town halls are part of the democratic process,” Kennedy told The Epoch Times in April.
“We’re living in a time when there’s a lot of Americans who believe our democracy is broken. And I think both political parties have to bend over backwards to start restoring faith in democracy and electional integrity.
“Americans think the entire system is rigged against them,” he added.
“And if the DNC goes through with this—its plan to not have debate—I think that will serve as … an unfortunate confirmation to a lot of Americans that the system is indeed rigged.”
And it isn’t the first time the DNC has faced such an accusation.
In 2017, the committee’s former Chairwoman Donna Brazile and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) both said they believed the DNC had “rigged” the 2016 Democratic primaries in Hillary Clinton’s favor.
According to a June 11 USA Today/Suffolk University poll, 80 percent of Democratic primary voters think Biden should debate his challengers—including 72 percent of his own supporters.
Biden, for his part, has expressed no interest in participating in debates.
“As you know, no incumbent R [Republican] or D [Democrat] have done debates,” Kevin Munoz, a Biden campaign spokesperson, told USA Today.
But according to David Paleologos, director of Suffolk’s Political Research Center, sidestepping debates may not be a winning political strategy for the incumbent.
“The decision not to debate is ignoring the 82 percent of women, 84 percent of union households, 86 percent of independents, and 90 percent of young voters who are not only planning to vote in their state’s Democratic primary or caucus next year but also would like to see a series of Democratic primary debates.”
Despite the politicians’ political positions, some Trump supporters have indicated that they would like to see the former president and Kennedy on the same ticket.
Among those supporters is Steve Bannon, one of Trump’s former advisers. On an episode of his “War Room” podcast in April, Bannon noted that his first pick for Trump’s running mate would be Arizona Republican Kari Lake, who is currently challenging the results of her state’s 2022 election and has also indicated interest in running for the U.S. Senate.
“If she’s not available to be Trump’s VP, Bobby Kennedy would be an excellent choice for Trump to consider,” Bannon said, adding that the idea had received a standing ovation when he first floated it among other Republicans.
More recently, on June 18, Sebastian Gorka said he thought a Trump–Kennedy pairing would “run away with” the presidency.
As a candidate, Kennedy has proven to be a likable figure for voters across the political spectrum, thanks in part to his tendency to buck party trends.
In a June 14 The Economist/You Gov poll (pdf), the Democrat topped both Trump and Biden in favorability. With 49 percent of respondents viewing him favorably and just 30 percent viewing him unfavorably, Kennedy garnered a net rating of 19 percent.
Trump and Biden had net ratings of negative 10 and negative 9 percent, respectively.
But those hoping for a Trump–Kennedy ticket will likely be disappointed, as the latter has already shot the idea down.
“Just to quell any speculation, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES will I join Donald Trump on an electoral ticket,” he wrote in a May 10 tweet. “Our positions on certain fundamental issues, our approaches to governance, and our philosophies of leadership could not be further apart.”