Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced Sunday that he will run for president as a third-party candidate, a move that will see him leave the Democrat party where his family has been a strong presence for over 60 years.
In his speech, Kennedy called on voters to "reclaim" the country from both major parties, which he said have both war-mongered and have not done what is needed with health care, the environment and housing.
Kennedy made the announcement in Philadelphia, saying, “The most hateful voices of course are always the loudest but there are a lot of quiet Americans who are looking with disgust at the vitriol, the name-calling and the venom. They want it to end. They want us to get along."
“Something is stirring in us, that says, ‘It doesn’t have to be this way,’” he said. “And that’s why I’m here today. I’m here to declare myself an independent candidate for president of the United States.”
Kennedy had been running as a Democrat challenger to President Joe Biden, but dropped that challenge to go third party.
While he got 15-20% support among Democrats, his anti-vaccine and anti-government views could be a draw for some Republicans as well.
Pundits are a bit uncertain about which major party candidate will be hurt the most by his independence.
Cornel West is also running as an independent candidate after leaving his Green Party candidacy.
The two independent candidates will need to meet certain qualifications to get on state ballots. Kennedy seemed to have enough of a following as a Democrat candidate to do so, but those who supported him as a Democrat candidate may not transfer their support over now that he is running independently.
Currently, polling shows that the two major party frontrunners are statistically tied with voters, but enthusiasm for both Biden and former President Donald Trump is running very low, which means a third-party candidate could at least potentially be seen as a viable alternative.
A Quinnipiac poll in July said that 47% of voters are willing to consider a third party, but they will need to be convinced that it is the best candidate available.
Kennedy comes off a little bit quirky and it may be hard for voters to take him seriously as the best candidate in the race.
One thing Kennedy can do is choose a Republican as a running mate, which 3 in 10 voters told Quinnipiac would be attractive to them.
There's a lot of time left before voting actually happens, and things that no one is expecting could change the entire race.