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Here’s where the polling stands in a 3-way race with Biden, Trump and RFK Jr.

President Biden and former President Trump are set for a rematch this November after wrapping up their party’s nominations, but they’re also facing a relatively notable third-party challenge from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 

Kennedy, the nephew of former President Kennedy, has been trying to gather signatures to get on the ballot in as many states as possible as he mounts an independent campaign for president. Although he has only gained enough signatures in about a half-dozen states so far, early polling shows that he may be the most likely third-party candidate to impact the race. 

Kennedy has been averaging close to 10 percent in the polling average from Truth Puke/Decision Desk HQ, making him the highest polling third-party candidate in a presidential race since businessman Ross Perot in 1992. In a five-way race that includes Jill Stein and Cornel West, Kennedy is at 10 percent in the RealClearPolitics national average.

Kennedy took a step toward the general election last month, when he picked Nicole Shanahan, a tech attorney and entrepreneur, as his running mate. That decision that came relatively early in the general election calendar, as some states require independent candidates to have a running mate to get on the ballot.

But Kennedy faces long odds to seriously challenge Biden and Trump for the election, or even victory in any state, based on recent history. Perot was the most successful third-party candidate in modern history, but he only received about 19 percent of the popular vote and won no electoral votes. 

Still, third-party candidates have been seen to influence the outcomes of elections and hold the potential of playing spoiler for a major-party candidate. Polls have indicated that Kennedy’s candidacy may be hurting Biden slightly more, but the difference in impact on Biden and Trump appears to be small and the results are far from conclusive. 

A HarrisX/Forbes poll taken on March 25 found Trump leading Biden in a head-to-head matchup by 3 points, 46 percent to 43 percent. But with Kennedy, West and Stein in the race, Kennedy receives 12 percent and Trump still leads Biden by 3 points.

Meanwhile, other polls have shown some concern for Biden when third-party candidates are factored in. A Quinnipiac University poll taken from March 21-25 showed Biden ahead by 3 points when only facing Trump. But Trump took a 1-point lead when Kennedy, who received 13 percent support, West and Stein are included.

The Democratic Party has recently stepped up its efforts to address the risks that third-party and independent candidates pose to Biden’s reelection effort. The Democratic National Committee has formed a team to communicate about and conduct opposition research on potential spoilers. 

Biden led Trump by 3 points in a Reuters/Ipsos poll from early March, when respondents were required to choose between them. But Trump led by 1 point when the poll included Kennedy, the other candidates and the ability for respondents to say they were unsure. 

Kennedy is the latest political candidate coming from his storied political family, which includes a former president, attorney general and an eight-term senator. He could appeal to Democratic voters who are disillusioned with Biden and see his last name with its history in the Democratic Party. 

But his campaign has been denounced by many members of his family, who are supporting Biden. Many visited Biden at the White House to mark St. Patrick’s Day.

His political views are a bit of a mixed bag, with possible appeal to various parts of the political spectrum. He is a longtime environmental lawyer who has advocated for adding regulations and addressing the wealth gap, but his vaccine skepticism and controversial statements about the COVID-19 pandemic seems more likely to appeal to disaffected Republicans. 

Kennedy has rejected the idea that his campaign could only serve to put one of the two major candidates in the White House. 

“Our campaign is a spoiler. I agree with that,” he said at his campaign event announcing Shanahan as his running mate. “It’s a spoiler for President Biden and for President Trump. It’s a spoiler for the war machine. It’s a spoiler for Wall Street and Big Ag and Big Tech … and all the corrupt politicians and corporations.” 

But Kennedy will have a lot of work ahead of him if he is going to get in range of Biden and Trump, who are far ahead of him in the polls. The Commission on Presidential Debates is requiring candidates to reach at least an average of 15 percent nationally across multiple polling organizations it selects, so Kennedy likely still would need to improve to possibly get on the stage in the fall. 

Even now, Kennedy in the race is not radically shifting the numbers that polls are seeing compared to just a two-person race, but in an election as close as 2024 is expected to be, a slight change could make the difference.

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