By Jeff Louderback
With South Carolina scheduled to lead off the 2024 Democratic presidential primary season in February, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is traveling around the state for what will be the first of many visits as he challenges President Joe Biden for the party’s nomination.
Mr. Kennedy appeared at a town hall in Charleston on Aug. 16 and courted voters on Aug. 19 in Orangeburg, where his campaign opened its first office in South Carolina.
Determined to spread a message of “economic hope” to South Carolina voters, Mr. Kennedy is also scheduled to visit Florence, Greer, Greenville, and Spartanburg through Aug. 22.
“Both President Trump and President Biden are running on platforms that they’ve brought prosperity to this country. But when I travel around South Carolina and other states, I’m not seeing that,” Mr. Kennedy told an audience in Charleston. “I’m seeing people who are living at a level of desperation that I have not seen in this country ever.”
Under the Biden administration, the country has seen higher food prices, credit card debt, and energy costs, and an affordable housing crisis.
“In the last two years, the price of housing has gone from $250,000 average to $400,000. Interest rates have gone up 20 percent, and we don’t need to have that happen,” Mr. Kennedy said. “There are ways that the federal government can help people without driving up the debt.”
Mr. Kennedy is the son of former New York Senator and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy.
An environmental attorney and the founder of Children’s Health Defense, Mr. Kennedy is widely known for his vocal stance against vaccine mandates and on the dangers of the relatively new COVID-19 vaccines that are based on the damaging spike protein of the virus.
In the early stages of his campaign, he has generated support from some traditional Democrats, conservatives, Libertarians, and moderates for multiple views that differ from President Biden and other progressive Democrats.
In July, a Harvard-Harris poll showed that Mr. Kennedy has a higher favorability rating than any other presidential candidate. That followed a June poll by The Economist/YouGov that indicated similar results.
In New Hampshire, Mr. Kennedy trails President Biden significantly, according to two polls.
A University of New Hampshire survey in July indicated that 70 percent of respondents said President Biden is their top pick in the 2024 Democratic presidential primary. Mr. Kennedy received 10 percent.
Last week, an Emerson College poll showed President Biden with a 65 percent to 12 percent lead over Mr. Kennedy in New Hampshire, a state that could prove pivotal in the early primary season.
Earlier this year, encouraged by President Biden, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted to strip Iowa’s caucus of its traditional lead-off spot in the party’s presidential nominating process and replace it with South Carolina. Under the new format, South Carolina will be the first Democrat primary, on Feb. 3. New Hampshire has long been the country’s first primary along with the GOP after Iowa’s caucus. Under the new calendar, which differs from the Republicans’ primary calendar, it would vote with Nevada on Feb. 6.
Because of the move, President Biden’s name might not appear on the state’s Democrat primary ballot.
Republican and Democrat legislators in New Hampshire have said they won’t adhere to the schedule change and that a state law prohibits the move. If President Biden doesn’t appear on the ballot, that would leave Mr. Kennedy and author Marianne Williamson to win that state’s primary.
The DNC rules panel gave New Hampshire until Sept. 1 to comply with new rules or face possible sanctions.
New Hampshire’s Democratic party leaders have said a longtime state law requires that their primary be scheduled at least ahead of any other primary.
“I don’t care what they do,” Kathy Sullivan, a former New Hampshire Democratic Party chair and DNC national committee member, told reporters. “We’re going to have our primary, and the DNC will do what they do, but it’s not going to change what we’re doing here.”
Mr. Kennedy, who opened his first office in New Hampshire this month, is expected to frequently appear in that state, and Iowa and South Carolina, in the upcoming months.
Speculation has mounted that, if it becomes evident that there’s no path to winning the Democratic nomination, Mr. Kennedy could run as an independent.
Mr. Kennedy squashed that idea, telling The Epoch Times definitively, “I am a Democrat,” which makes him an anomaly in today’s divisive political climate, because most pundits agree that he is the candidate who appeals to the widest spectrum of voters.
Economy, Economy, Economy
As he did in Charleston and Orangeburg, Mr. Kennedy is expected to talk to voters about the economy, and issues where he disagrees with President Biden.
In Charleston, he criticized the president for continued financial support to Ukraine.
“One of the big problems we have in our federal government is the addiction to war,” Kennedy said. “President Biden went to Congress and asked for another $24 billion for the Ukraine War.
“We’ve spent $8 trillion dollars on wars since 9/11,” Mr. Kennedy added. “If we kept that money home, we would’ve had child care for every American. We would have free college education for every American. We’d be able to pay for our Social Security system.”
Mr. Kennedy believes that he, and not President Biden, is the candidate who will best represent the Democrats in 2024 and beyond.
“I am the only choice that is going to end the war machine, that is going to really focus on rebuilding the American middle class, taming inflation,” Mr. Kennedy said.
On Aug. 22, Mr. Kennedy will speak at a private residence in Spartanburg. While upstate South Carolina is predominantly Republican, Spartanburg resident Kate Keville invited Mr. Kennedy to speak and is opening her home to 300 to 400 guests.
“Mr. Kennedy will be speaking, I am assuming, on the paver back there,” Keville told a Spartanburg TV station as she pointed to her back patio.
Ms. Keville’s request was granted by the candidate’s campaign manager, former Rep. Dennis Kucinich.
“I never expected it to happen but it’s happening,” Ms. Keville said.
“I was born in 1957. So, I remember the day that John F. Kennedy was killed, and I remember when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated as well,” she added. “I’m not a politician. I never really been into politics so it’s more about spreading the news about Robert Kennedy as a presidential candidate.”