Typically, incumbent presidents don’t face much if anything in the way of challengers from their own party ahead of their expected general election battles with the nominee from the other party.
But in the case of President Joe Biden, things have been quite different so far as questions about his age (80) and physical/mental fitness to lead the country for another four years alongside Vice President Kamala Harris continue to grow.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. of the famous Kennedy political dynasty declared his presidential candidacy in April, and there has been significant buzz about his campaign in the media and among both his supporters and detractors.
“My mission over the next 18 months of this campaign and throughout my presidency will be to end the corrupt merger of state and corporate power that is threatening now to impose a new kind of corporate feudalism in our country,” Kennedy proclaimed to supporters at the time of his announcement.
His supporters tout his environmental advocacy and his promise to end the alleged cozy relationship between government and Corporate America, while his political opposition points to his alleged “anti-vaccine” stance and his alliances with some notable conservative influencers.
While Kennedy wasn’t predicted to make any upsets in the primary, an incumbent having a strong primary challenger has the potential to damage and weaken them in the general election, which is one reason why we saw so much grumbling from rank-and-file Democrats after Kennedy made his candidacy official.
In October, Kennedy announced a major change in his campaign, saying he was going to run as an Independent instead of a Democrat. This is something that has no doubt given the Biden team nightmares, as CNN explained at the time.
“A Reuters/Ipsos poll of a hypothetical three-way race between Biden, Trump and Kennedy conducted last week among likely voters found 14% of voters supported Kennedy, with 40% supporting Trump and 38% supporting Biden,” they reported.
In other words, Kennedy potentially could do far more damage to Biden in the general election than in a primary race.
Last week, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) announced in New Hampshire he was running for president after months of warning Democrats they needed someone younger to take on Donald Trump, who Phillips believes will win the Republican nomination.
“This campaign is about preventing Donald Trump’s reelection,” Dean wrote in a tweet explaining why he had decided to run against Biden.
“I deeply admire Joe Biden, but 2024 could be existential,” he also wrote.
Due to intraparty disagreement over which state should be “first in the nation” for the Democratic primary, Biden will not be on the ballot in the New Hampshire primary, providing an opening for a possible surprise win for Phillips.
Self-help guru Marianne Williamson, a Democrat, is also running for president again after a failed run in 2020. Though she’s seen some double-digit polling against Joe Biden, she’s not expected to have much of an impact in the primary.
Radical author/professor Cornel West, an admitted socialist whom the Democratic faithful have typically held in high regard, is running a third-party candidacy as an Independent.
Democrats fear West gaining any momentum as he’s seen as someone who like RFK Jr. has the potential to siphon younger voters from Joe Biden, which of course could ultimately help the Republican presidential nominee.
Among Democrats, there have been grumblings over the years about third-party “spoilers” in the general election, with some blaming Green Party nominee Jill Stein in part for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat.
It remains to be seen whether a similar scenario will play out in 2024, but one thing is for certain: it’s going to be anything but easy for Biden who by the time all is said and done might wish he had decided on a one-term presidency instead of running for reelection.
North Carolina native Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a media analyst and regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.