By Ali Swenson | Related Press
PHILADELPHIA — Longtime environmental lawyer and anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. mentioned Monday he’ll run for president as an impartial and drop his Democratic main bid, including a wrinkle to a 2024 race heading towards a possible rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.
Talking Monday from Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, the place America’s founding paperwork had been adopted, Kennedy mentioned there’s a “rising tide of discontent” within the nation and mentioned he needs to make a “new Declaration of Independence” — from companies, the media and the 2 main political events.
“I’ve come right here right now to declare our independence from the tyranny of corruption which robs us of inexpensive lives, our perception sooner or later, and our respect for one another,” Kennedy mentioned. “However to try this I need to first declare my very own independence. Independence from the Democratic Celebration and from all different political events.”
Kennedy, a member of one of the well-known Democratic households in politics, was operating a long-shot main bid and has higher favorability scores amongst Republicans than Democrats. It’s unclear whether or not GOP help would translate to a normal election when Kennedy would even be operating in opposition to Trump. Allies of each Biden and Trump have at instances questioned whether or not Kennedy can be a spoiler in opposition to their candidate.
“The reality is, they’re each proper,” Kennedy mentioned in his speech. “My intention is to spoil it for each of them.”
Biden’s allies to date have dismissed Kennedy’s main marketing campaign as unserious. Requested for remark forward of the announcement, a Democratic Nationwide Committee spokesman responded with an eye fixed roll emoji.
The Republican Nationwide Committee printed a truth sheet earlier than Kennedy’s speech titled “Radical DEMOCRAT RFK Jr.” that lists instances he supported liberal politicians or concepts. The doc additionally listed instances he supported conspiracy theories about COVID-19 or “stolen-election claims” associated to the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections that Democrats misplaced to President George W. Bush. Trump continues to advertise the disproved principle that his loss to Biden was the results of a stolen election.
Lots of of supporters gathered for Kennedy’s remarks, at instances chanting, “RFK, all the way in which!” Marketing campaign indicators teased a possible new slogan: “Declare your independence.”
Amongst Kennedy’s followers within the crowd had been a number of voters who mentioned they don’t determine as Democratic or Republican and consider Kennedy as a reality teller and a breath of recent air.
“He tells it how it’s,” mentioned Julia Hill, a 23-year-old pupil from New Jersey. “He doesn’t sound like a politician.”
Different supporters, similar to Brent Snyder, a disabled veteran from south Philadelphia, mentioned they’d voted for Trump previously however had been in search of a change.
“The final couple years I’ve been noticing the Republican Celebration’s been going a manner I didn’t like,” Snyder mentioned. “Not that I agree with all the things that’s occurring to Trump, however I feel proper now he has extra baggage than his nation wants. The division proper now’s simply horrible. We want somebody to deliver either side collectively to make us work.”
4 of Kennedy’s 10 siblings put out a joint assertion denouncing his candidacy and saying they had been saddened by his announcement.
“The choice of our brother Bobby to run as a 3rd get together candidate in opposition to Joe Biden is harmful to our nation,” it learn. “Bobby would possibly share the identical identify as our father, however he doesn’t share the identical values, imaginative and prescient or judgment.”
Monday’s announcement comes lower than per week after the progressive activist Cornel West deserted his Inexperienced Celebration bid in favor of an impartial White Home run. In the meantime, the centrist group No Labels is actively securing poll entry for a yet-to-be-named candidate.
Kennedy has spent weeks accusing the DNC of “rigging” the get together’s main in opposition to him and threatening that he would possibly want to contemplate alternate options.
In marketing campaign emails and movies, he blasted the DNC’s determination to not host debates between Biden and different candidates and railed in opposition to the committee’s plan to present South Carolina somewhat than Iowa or New Hampshire the leadoff spot on the first calendar this election cycle.
“In the event that they jam me, I’m going to take a look at each possibility,” he mentioned in September at a New Hampshire barbecue held by Republican former Sen. Scott Brown.
Far-right and anti-vaccine influencers near Kennedy additionally despatched sturdy indicators on social media suggesting he ought to or would go away the Democratic Celebration. Final month, Joseph Mercola, an influential anti-vaccine physician who’s allied with Kennedy, ran a ballot on X, previously often known as Twitter, asking if Kennedy ought to give up the get together.
Whereas Kennedy has lengthy recognized as a Democrat and ceaselessly invokes his late father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and his uncle President John F. Kennedy on the marketing campaign path, he has constructed shut relationships with far-right figures lately. He appeared on a channel run by the Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and headlined a cease on the ReAwaken America Tour, the Christian nationalist highway present put collectively by Trump’s former nationwide safety adviser Michael Flynn.
Polls present much more Republicans than Democrats have a good opinion of Kennedy. He additionally has gained help from some far-right conservatives for his fringe views, together with his vocal mistrust of COVID-19 vaccines, which research have proven are protected and efficient in opposition to extreme illness and loss of life.
Kennedy’s anti-vaccine group, Youngsters’s Well being Protection, at present has a lawsuit pending in opposition to quite a few information organizations, amongst them The Related Press, accusing them of violating antitrust legal guidelines by taking motion to determine misinformation, together with about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines. Kennedy took depart from the group when he introduced his run for president however is listed as certainly one of its attorneys within the lawsuit.
Related Press writers Michelle Smith and Will Weissert contributed to this report.