Bobby Kennedy enters the ring

RFK Jr. announced his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination yesterday. He seeks to wrest it from the presumptive (and presumptuous) Democratic candidate Joe Biden. RCP — not to be confused with RFK — has posted video, clips, and text of Kennedy’s announcement here.

I found much to like in the substance and tone of Kennedy’s announcement. I enjoyed his tribute to his wife, Cheryl Hines, and to his family — the quick and the dead. He attacked the merger of state and corporate power. I wish he would expand the attack to woke corporate America. It would complement his professed desire to overcome the divisions on which Democrats have staked their power. Yet Bobby remains hazy about all that. He either can’t or won’t say too much about it.

Democrats do not have their heart in another Biden candidacy. Everyone knows it. According to the recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, 14 percent of surveyed voters who backed President Biden in 2020 said they would support Kennedy in 2024. The Hill reports on the poll here. I don’t know if I believe it, but that is not an insubstantial place from which to start a candidacy that otherwise appears to be fantastical.

Biden, however, has rigged the Democrats’ schedule to suit his political strengths, such as they are. Kennedy could break through in Iowa or New Hampshire, but those states won’t carry the weight that they have in years past for Democrats.

If Kennedy were to prove his case — the case for an alternative to Biden — one can be sure that others would jump in. When Eugene McCarthy proved his apparently quixotic case against LBJ in the March 1968 New Hampshire primary, pulling down 42 percent of the vote, McCarthy’s success drew Kennedy’s father into the fray. RFK Jr. would have the same effect on Gavin Newsom and one or two other antsy Dems if he were to demonstrate that a challenge to Biden is not merely quixotic.

As a liberal St. Paul high school student in 1968 I preferred McCarthy to Kennedy. Indeed, I canvassed in Wisconsin for McCarthy before LBJ withdrew. In 2024, as a conservative Republican, I prefer Kennedy to Biden (or Newsom, for that matter). I offer the prospective Biden campaign an adaptation of the old Carter campaign slogan for its use in 2024: Why not the worst?

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