KETTER: Breaking from Biden – Norman Transcript

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Few pundits and polls opine about it, but Donald J. Trump is not President Biden’s only threat if he decides to soldier on with his wounded reelection quest.

The greater risk is reluctant Biden voters frightened by his debate fiasco and moving to third-party candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.


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They include double-haters, minorities and younger voters (Gen Z and millennials) who see Kennedy as the best alternative despite his oddball conspiracy theories about vaccines, cancer causes and other matters.

It is about affiliating with a younger candidate who started his campaign as a lifelong Democrat, then switched to independent status when the Dems snubbed his frequent request to debate Biden. Kennedy is 70, Trump is 78 and Biden is 81.

Kennedy’s appeal rests on his reputation as a crusading environmental lawyer who understands the effects of climate change, supports women’s reproductive rights and prescribes remedies for the vexing student loan and immigration issues.

His raspy voice, which often strains to a whisper, hasn’t deterred him. He admits to the rare medical condition known as spasmodic dysphonia, which causes his vocal chords to swell when he speaks.

He has the celebrated Kennedy smile and vigor if nothing else seems familial to the other offspring of President John F. Kennedy (his uncle) and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (his father) — both assassinated in the turbulent 1960s.

National surveys before the Biden-Trump debate had RFK Jr. attracting as much as 16 % of likely voters. Support bumped to 20 % among Democrats only. Doubtless, those figures have ticked up since the post-debate portrait of a bumbling Biden.

Kennedy’s role is that of a spoiler. He has no real chance of winning the 2024 presidential election.

With four months left to election day, he is far short of qualifying for all 50 state ballots. He expects to be on nearly all of them before this fall. An obstacle could be lack of money to achieve the goal. Ballot rules differ by state and gathering sufficient signatures is costly.

Yet those impediments occurred before Biden’s nightmare debate performance and the gathering public concern over his age and fitness to serve another four-year term.

If Biden remains the Democrats choice, donations to Kennedy will likely improve, allowing him to possibly siphon enough votes from Biden and Trump to win a couple of states, maybe even a battleground state or two. That, in turn, could deny Biden and Trump the minimum 270 Electoral College votes needed in a close election.

If it happens, the Constitution’s 12th Amendment assigns the final choice to the newly-elected U.S. House. Each state gets one vote, with caucuses of the separate delegations deciding the recipients. The party controlling the most state delegations holds the winning hand.

It has happened only twice in American history – in 1800 with the first election of Thomas Jefferson, and in 1824 with the only election of John Quincy Adams. In both instances, the nation was still in its formative stage.

Biden’s aging condition reflects a rising concern among newly undecided voters. Trump’s latest problem links to the disconcerting Supreme Court decision on presidential immunity from criminal prosecution.

The court decision has raised the specter of a Trump election victory providing him a legal pathway to use the official power of the president to exact revenge on his enemies and remove barriers to his heavy-handed agenda.

An overly adversary relationship with the rival party assures the American public of continued standstill in Washington and widening division across the nation. Bipartisanship and the public good will remain lost thoughts.

But the expectation is not lost on voters drifting toward RFK Jr., examining the fallout and casting a vote against both Biden and Trump. It is the gist of an imperfect end game.

Bill Ketter is CNHI senior vice president of news. Reach him at [email protected].

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