Home Top News RFK Jr.’s running mate an ‘unknown quantity’ with ‘deep pockets’ as GOP, Dems fear spoiler campaign: experts

RFK Jr.’s running mate an ‘unknown quantity’ with ‘deep pockets’ as GOP, Dems fear spoiler campaign: experts


Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s running mate, Nicole Shanahan, presents several areas of appeal to key constituencies for both President Biden and former President Trump, as Democrats and Republicans look to stave off Kennedy’s campaign for president. 

‘Shanahan is an unknown quantity,’ said Kevin Madden, former senior adviser to Utah Sen. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012. ‘If she can bring a fresh, dynamic approach to the campaign, she has a chance to tap into a very real market of voters who want anything but a 2020 rematch.’

Last week, Kennedy announced the 38-year-old attorney, tech entrepreneur and mother as the vice president on his 2024 ticket. The campaign had to announce a running mate to begin gathering signatures to gain ballot access in several states. 

Lisa Bryant, political science department chairwoman at California State University, Fresno said, ‘She will likely help draw some attention to the campaign from women voters and possibly first-gen voters and [people of color] as people become more familiar with her.’ 

Who exactly Shanahan will appeal to, and which candidate that in turn hurts, remains unknown. Like Kennedy, his running mate has some qualities that align with those on the left and others that do so on the right. 

‘The only candidate that… I really don’t think any Moms for Liberty members are going to vote for would be Joe Biden,’ said Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice in an interview with Fox News Digital on Monday. 

Kennedy was slated to speak to the conservative group at their Philadelphia summit last summer when he was still running against Biden in the Democratic primary. However, Justice said he backed out at the last minute, which disappointed members who were interested in hearing from him. 

Now, Kennedy is running as an independent, and Justice explained that there is still a level of interest in his campaign from some members, pointing specifically to mothers whose children may have suffered injuries allegedly from vaccines. 

Bryant claimed Shanahan’s ‘vaccine skepticism’ could be more attractive to ‘right-leaning voters,’ but added, ‘she might also appeal to those on the left who still believe vaccines are linked to autism.’

David Darmofal, a political scientist at the University of South Carolina, reiterated that Shanahan is not well-known, remarking she ‘probably doesn’t have the name recognition to currently draw disproportionately from either Democratic- or Republican-leaning voters.’

He explained that she could likely ‘reinforce Kennedy’s anti-system message and provide help for the campaign with donations.’

Madden wasn’t sure whether Trump or Biden would be more affected by Kennedy and Shanahan’s ticket. But he explained that regardless, Shanahan fits the profile of some of the most important voters in November: suburban women in critical battleground counties. It’s not yet clear what level of impact Shanahan’s involvement could have on this core constituency, he explained.

Currently, Trump is at a disadvantage with women, who were credited with delivering Biden the win in 2020. According to a March Quinnipiac poll, Biden is winning with women as a whole and with White women, who previously swung for Trump in 2016.

In the survey, 48% of female registered voters said they supported Biden, while 30% chose Trump and 12% opted for Kennedy. Among White women, 46% stuck with Biden, 33% said they would vote for Trump and 13% would choose Kennedy. 

As 2024 appears poised to be a rematch of 2020, strategists have highlighted women, specifically suburban and in battleground states, as one of the most critical voting groups. 

Madden, who has experience with running mate decisions, emphasized the importance of chemistry between those on the ticket. At the end of the day, he stressed that they needed to like each other.

According to Democratic strategist Eric Koch, Kennedy’s selection had more to do with finances than any kind of voter appeal. She ‘can help him buy ballot access,’ he said, adding that voters won’t be swayed by Kennedy’s ‘scam.’ 

Democratic National Committee spokesperson Matt Corridoni, who the Biden campaign referred Fox News Digital to when asked for comment, echoed this. ‘She has money they can use to help buy their way onto the ballot.’ 

But political scientists noted that Shanahan’s money provides an important resource for Kennedy. ‘She can give unlimited amounts of money to the campaign,’ explained Christopher Devine, a University of Dayton assistant professor of political science and co-author of ‘Do Running Mates Matter?’

With her, Kennedy has ‘a much better chance of getting on state ballots across the country and winning a larger share of the national popular vote,’ he said. 

She ‘has deep pockets and Silicon Valley connections,’ said Bernard Tamas, an associate political science professor at Valdosta State University and author of ‘The Demise and Rebirth of American Third Parties.’

And despite the Kennedy campaign’s lack of ‘the structure of a typically successful third party,’ Shanahan’s money puts them in a better position than many other independent bids, he said.

Her value may only be in the short term, however. ‘As someone who likewise has no political experience, she is a poor choice for Kennedy in the long term,’ Devine claimed. 

‘Her effectiveness will largely depend on how voters respond to her as they learn more and see her in action over the course of the campaign,’ said Madden. 

Bryant agreed, noting her presentation on the trail ‘will be the real test.’

In a statement, Kennedy press secretary Stefanie Spear said, ‘We are neither right nor left, neither liberal nor conservative. The key policy positions that Mr. Kennedy and Ms. Shanahan share defy those categories.’

Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung felt differently. ‘RFK Jr. is a radical leftist,’ he claimed.

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