Trump fumes as RFK Jr.’s anti-vaxx views land with MAGA voters

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is swamping conservative media platforms, which has Donald Trump and his campaign team on edge, according to Politico.

Kennedy is reportedly frequenting pro-Trump outlets such as Fox News and Newsmax, along with right-wing podcasts hosted by the likes of Ben Shapiro and Glenn Beck. His message on those programs is tailor-made for voters who dislike or even despise President Joe Biden and Democrats, including “the young listeners of bro podcasters and conservative-coded YouTubers that skew anti-‘woke,'” writes Politico.

Kennedy initially launched his presidential bid as a Democrat. But his anti-establishment messaging and embrace of baseless conspiracy theoriesparticularly regarding vaccines, has helped fuel his celebrity on the right while repelling those on the left and other fact-based voters.

Several recent national polls have shown RFK Jr. drawing more voters away from Trump than Bidenbut his candidacy’s impact on the 2024 election outcome is far from settled.

For instance, one recent battleground poll conducted by Emerson College for The Hill found that RFK Jr. siphoned votes away from Biden in five swing states (Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) while drawing evenly from Biden and Trump in two others (Arizona and Michigan).

Michigan State politics professor Corwin Smidt underscored the fluidity of Kennedy’s influence in the critical swing state.

“Given the status of politics in Michigan right now, I would say he’s probably more damaging to Trump,” Smidt told the BBC. “But it’s a very uncertain situation.”

Accordingly, both campaigns are making an effort to push their Kennedy-curious voters away from him. A group of Kennedys recently endorsed Biden en masse and followed up by cutting a glowing ad for him.

And Trump seems increasingly agitated by Kennedy, railing against him on social media.

On the heels of several polls last week that showed Kennedy’s candidacy helping Biden, Trump called RFK Jr. “a Democratic ‘Plant'” designed to get Biden reelected.

“A Vote for Junior’ would essentially be a WASTED PROTEST VOTE,” Trump said in the post, calling Kennedy “Anti-Gun,” an “Extreme Environmentalist,” a “Big Time Taxer,” and an “Open Border Advocate,” among other things.

Trump’s social media rants may not rise to the level of an official campaign strategy, but they certainly demonstrate a sense of urgency.

In essence, Kennedy’s effect on the race is volatile, with both campaigns wondering how he’ll impact the contest and, importantly, in which states.

The question for both Biden and Trump becomes: How do we make Kennedy a bigger drag on the other guy than on me?

One Pennsylvania focus group suggested that Democratic swing voters who favor abortion access started second guessing their support for Kennedy when they began questioning his abortion stance. While Kennedy’s campaign says he rejects a national abortion ban, the candidate told an NBC reporter on camera last year that he supported a ban after 12 weeks of pregnancy.

A new Monmouth University poll offers another data point for Biden allies to consider. The survey found Republicans warmed to Kennedy once they learned more about his embrace of medical conspiracy theories. Specifically, Kennedy has linked autism to vaccines and said COVID was targeted at people of certain races.

In the Monmouth poll, 5% of respondents said they were “definite” Kennedy voters while another 13% said they were “probable” Kennedy voters.

Overall, 10% of Republicans fell into those combined categories, while 15% of Democrats did.

But when voters were informed of Kennedy’s beliefs on vaccines and COVID, his potential support among Republicans increased by 8 points, with 18% saying they would either definitely or probably vote for him. Meanwhile, Kennedy’s support among Democrats fell by 5 points, to a combined 10% definitely/probably. Kennedy’s support among independent voters remained constant at roughly 24%.

The findings give the Biden campaign and his allies another avenue to potentially turn RFK Jr. into a bigger threat against Trump. RFK Jr. is the original anti-vaxxer, and it’s worth remembering that Trump got booed several times on the campaign trail in 2020 when he suggested his MAGA supporters should get sanctioned.

Biden would much prefer the 2024 contest to be a straight head-to-head matchup against Trump. But RFK Jr. likely make the ballot at least several swing states, if not all of them. That means Biden and his allies must find ways to blunt Kennedy’s Democratic appeal—and if they can simultaneously stoke his support among voters who might otherwise vote for Trump, so much the better.

When Robert F. Kennedy Jr. entered the 2024 presidential race as an independent, many feared (and the MAGA faithful cheered) that he would siphon off important swing-state Democrats and independents from President Biden. That doesn’t seem to be so true anymore. In fact, the opposite may be true—and Donald Trump is hopping mad about it.