RFK Jr. Draws Fire From All Sides After VP Pick
RFK Jr. Draws Fire From All Sides After VP Pick

By Jeff Louderback

OAKLAND, Calif.—Moments after Robert F. Kennedy Jr. introduced Silicon Valley lawyer and entrepreneur Nicole Shanahan as his running mate on March 26, the independent presidential candidate saw backlash from both Democrats and Republicans for the selection.

In Oakland, where Ms. Shanahan grew up, Mr. Kennedy called the ticket a spoiler for President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Citing polls that indicate more than half of American voters do not want to see a rematch between the two presidents, Mr. Kennedy said, “Millions of Americans are not going to vote at all if they’re not given another choice. They’re simply withdrawing from democracy. Well, Nicole and I are going to give those millions another choice.”

After Ms. Shanahan was announced as Mr. Kennedy’s running mate, President Trump expressed his view on Truth Social.

“RFK Jr. is the most Radical Left Candidate in the race, by far. He’s a big fan of the Green New Scam, and other economy killing disasters. I guess this would mean he is going to be taking votes from Crooked Joe Biden, which would be a great service to America. His running mate, Nicole Shanahan, is even more ‘Liberal’ than him, if that’s possible. Kennedy is a Radical Left Democrat, and always will be!!! It’s great for MAGA, but the Communists will make it very hard for him to get on the Ballot. Expect him, and her, to be indicted any day now, probably for Environmental Fraud! He is Crooked Joe Biden’s Political Opponent, not mine. I love that he is running!”

The criticism marked a sharp contrast to the early stages of his campaign when Mr. Kennedy was opposing President Biden in the Democrat Party primary.

President Trump called Mr. Kennedy “a very smart person” and noted “he’s hit a little bit of a nerve,” “his heart is in the right place,” and “he’s doing really well.”

The former president’s sentiments changed when Mr. Kennedy announced last October he would run as an independent.

President Trump and Mr. Kennedy have similar views on topics like protecting the U.S.-Mexico border and ending the Russia-Ukraine war.

COVID-19 is the topic where Mr. Kennedy and President Trump differ the most as Mr. Kennedy has criticized the former president for “not asking the questions he should have” during the pandemic.

President Trump “knew that lockdowns were wrong” and then “agreed to lockdowns,” Mr. Kennedy said.

He also “knew that hydroxychloroquine worked, he said it,” Mr. Kennedy explained, adding that he was eventually “rolled over” by Dr. Anthony Fauci and his advisers.

Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks in the library, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on March 4, 2024. (Alon Skuy/Getty Images)

An outspoken critic of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed program that escalated the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, Mr. Kennedy said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “Donald Trump clearly hasn’t learned from his COVID-era mistakes” as the former president has repeatedly praised the program.

“He fails to recognize how ineffective his warp speed vaccine is as the ninth shot is being recommended to seniors. Even more troubling is the documented harm being caused by the shot to so many innocent children and adults who are suffering myocarditis, pericarditis, and brain inflammation,” Mr. Kennedy said last month.

On March 26, Mr. Kennedy said President Biden and President Trump “both worked to close our Main Street businesses for a year (during COVID)—3.3 million businesses—with no due process, no scientific citation no public hearings, and no environmental impacts.

Those policies “transferred $4 trillion from the middle class” and “created 500 new billionaires in 500 days. Together, they ran up a greater debt than all previous presidents combined since George Washington,” he added.

“If we vote for either of them again, we can expect and we will deserve more of the same.”

RFK Jr. ‘Funded by MAGA’

Outside the venue on March 26, a truck funded by the DNC circled the street. It was adorned with video boards on both sides covered with images of Mr. Kennedy and President Trump and messages like “RFK Jr. has the same biggest donor as Donald Trump” and “RFK Jr. is funded by MAGA.”

Timothy Mellon, who is one of President Trump’s top donors, has given more than $20 million to Kennedy-aligned super PAC American Values 2024, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings.

A Harvard/CAPS Harris poll conducted on March 20 and March 21 showed President Trump with 41 percent support followed by President Biden at 37 percent and Mr. Kennedy at 15 percent.

The study also indicated that Mr. Kennedy has a net favorability rating that is 13 points higher than President Trump and 24 points better than President Biden.

The DNC has paid for billboards in multiple locations featuring a similar position—that Mr. Kennedy’s presence in the race benefits President Trump.

Earlier this month, the DNC announced the creation of a team to counter third-party and independent presidential candidates.

It hired Lis Smith, a veteran Democratic strategist who managed Pete Buttigieg’s unsuccessful 2020 presidential campaign, to spearhead an aggressive communication plan to combat Mr. Kennedy, independent Cornel West, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.

News about the DNC’s campaign followed its March 4 complaint with the FEC contending that American Values 2024 did not disclose $10 million in loans.

It marked the second time in a one-month span that the DNC has accused American Values 2024 of violating federal finance campaign law.

The FEC complaints illustrate the DNC’s attempts to destabilize Mr. Kennedy’s campaign as President Biden faces a plummeting job approval rating and mounting questions about his mental fitness.

The DNC and the president’s supporters are accusing Mr. Kennedy of being propped up by the Trump movement, as well as highlighting similar Trump–Kennedy policy stances in the areas of border security, U.S. funding for Ukraine, and vaccine mandates.

On multiple occasions, DNC officials have called Mr. Kennedy “a stalking horse” for President Trump.

“It’s clear that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is being propped up and funded by Donald Trump and his allies because they believe that he is a useful stalking horse who could throw the election Trump’s way. We need to sound that alarm every day between now and the election,” Ms. Smith said.

In Real Clear Politics average of polls as of March 26, President Trump led with 42 percent followed by President Biden (39.6 percent), Mr. Kennedy (12 percent), Green Party nominee Jill Stein (2 percent), and independent Cornel West (1.9 percent)

In three separate polls released on March 25, Mr. Kennedy ranged from 12 to 14 percent backing behind President Trump and President Biden and ahead of Ms. Stein and Mr. West.

Biden Surrogates Sound Alarm

The DNC held a press call on March 26 following Mr. Kennedy’s vice presidential pick.

Several President Biden surrogates reiterated the message that Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy benefits President Trump.

Pennsylvania Democrat Lt. Governor Austin Davis noted, “We’re doing everything in our power to get President Biden and Vice President Harris reelected. So it’s critical that we take seriously every possible obstacle to that goal. And let me be clear, that’s exactly what Robert F Kennedy is in this election. He’s a spoiler.”

Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow said, “There is absolutely no path for Kennedy to become president and he knows that. That is why he picked a VP who can buy his way onto the ballot in a number of states.

Mr. Kennedy “being in the race means that there is a greater likelihood that Donald Trump will become president again,” she said.

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on March 7, 2024. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Leading up to the March 26 announcement, Mr. Kennedy continued to get backlash from some of his family members.

On March 17, his sister, Kerry Kennedy, posted a photo of President Biden and a dozen Kennedys on X.

“President Biden, you make the world better. Happy St. Patrick’s Day,” she wrote.

President Biden responded by writing, “From one proud Irish family to another—it was good to have you all back at the White House.”

In October 2023, Mr. Kennedy’s sister, Rory Kennedy, called her brother’s campaign “dangerous” in a post on X.

“I feel strongly that this is the most important election of our lifetime, and there’s so much at stake. And I do think it’s going to come down to a handful of votes in a handful of states. And I do worry that Bobby just taking some percentage of votes from Biden could shift the election and lead to Trump’s election,” she told CNN last week when asked about her comment.

Multiple times on the campaign trail, Mr. Kennedy has pointed out that he has more than 100 family members and has said that many of them are working on his campaign. Amaryllis Fox Kennedy, his daughter-in-law, is his campaign manager.

There are some pundits who think that the Kennedy-Shanahan ticket could negatively impact President Trump.

Longtime Democratic strategist James Carville told MSNBC on March 26, “I actually think Bobby Kennedy might hurt Trump more.”

Mr. Carville believes that independent Cornel West and Green Party nominee Jill Stein could be more damaging to President Biden.

A Political Novice

A late-breaking candidate in Mr. Kennedy’s months-long search for a vice president, Ms. Shanahan, 38, is a political novice.

She was formerly married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin. The lawyer, entrepreneur, and investor helped fund and create Mr. Kennedy’s $7 million Super Bowl campaign ad.

Ms. Shanahan has donated to the presidential campaigns of Democrats Pete Buttigieg and Marianne Williamson in previous years, according to Forbes.

In 2020, she gave the Biden Victory Fund $25,000.

When Mr. Kennedy was still running in the Democrat presidential primary, Ms. Shanahan contributed the maximum of $6,600 to the candidate’s campaign, the New York Times reported.

During her address on March 26, she remarked, “In this moment, I am leaving the Democratic Party.

“The Democratic Party is supposed to be the party of compassion. It is supposed to be the party of diplomacy and science. It is supposed to be the party of civil liberties, free speech, and most importantly, the party of the middle class and the American dream.”

Democrats Have ‘Lost Their Way’

While I know many Democrats still abide by those values, I want to point out I’ve been in touch with many people in the Democratic Party. I do believe they’ve lost their way and their leadership.”

Ms. Shanahan added that she will spend the next several months focused on getting Mr. Kennedy “on each and every ballot in this country.”

Joseph and Katie Sokolski-Spear attended Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s announcement of Nicole Shanahan as his running mate in Oakland, Calif., on March 26, 2024. (Jeff Louderback/The Epoch Times)

Katie Sokolski-Spear left the Democrat party when she supported Bernie Sanders’ presidential bids that were thwarted by the DNC.

“What the DNC is doing gives me talking points to tell my friends. No debates. Nobody [is] allowed to run against Biden. No Secret Service protection. All these moves to keep him off the ballot. I will never again support the Democrat party,” she said to The Epoch Times.

Her husband, Joseph Sokolski-Spear, said he is hopeful that Democrats and Republicans who do not like their respective candidate learn more about Mr. Kennedy.

“I think a lot of people get stuck in the idea of rooting for their team, like it’s a football team, and not paying attention to the issues. People who don’t pay attention think their party is still fighting for the same issues when clearly they don’t represent what they once did,” he said.

Democrats “keep focusing on identity politics and not issues people care about, like the economy, the corruption, medical freedom, and never-ending wars. It’s just to keep people on their team,” Ms. Sokolski-Spear added.

“They’re not talking about what they’re going to do to lower gas prices. They’re not talking about what they’re going to do to make our lives better.”

Ms. Shanahan believes that the Kennedy-Shanahan ticket can reach more voters like Mr. and Mrs. Sokolski-Spear.

“It wasn’t until I met Bobby and the people supporting him that I felt any hope in the outcome of this election. Maybe that’s why I see so many Republicans disillusioned with their party as I become disillusioned with mine,” she said.

“If you are one of those disillusioned Republicans, I welcome you to join me, a disillusioned Democrat, in this movement to unify and heal America.”

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