Kennedy Family Endorses Biden Over Their Own Relative, RFK Jr.

President Joe Biden listens to Kerry Kennedy (R) as she and members of the Kennedy family endorse his presidential campaign, at Martin Luther King Recreation Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 18, 2024.
President Joe Biden listens to Kerry Kennedy (R) as she and members of the Kennedy family endorse his presidential campaign, at Martin Luther King Recreation Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 18, 2024. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images

More than a dozen Kennedy family members appeared with President Joe Biden Thursday to endorse his reelection over a member of their own family, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — the Biden campaign’s biggest effort yet to stem leakage of progressive support to Kennedy’s independent candidacy.

“President Biden has been a champion for all the rights and freedoms that my father and uncle stood for. That’s why nearly every single grandchild of Joe and Rose Kennedy supports Joe Biden,” said Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert Kennedy, niece of President John F. Kennedy and brother of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. “That’s right — the Kennedy family endorses Joe Biden for president.”

The Kennedy name has been iconic in Democratic politics for some 75 years, and especially so after brothers JFK and RFK were assassinated in the 1960s. Democratic consultants worried that a candidate with that famous name could pull voters away from Biden, helping Donald Trump’s effort to win back the White House.

Initially, Trump’s advisers also believed that Kennedy would help the coup-attempting former president. But they’ve come to see him as cannibalizing Trump’s support, as Kennedy’s embrace of vaccine conspiracy theories and support for the pro-Trump mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, have become better-known.

“Interestingly enough, six to eight months ago RFK Jr. pulled more support from Biden than Trump, but now he’s pulling more from Trump,” said GOP pollster Neil Newhouse, who is not affiliated with Trump’s campaign. “Democratic voters figured out his issue positions weren’t in line with theirs and, in the meantime, some Republicans seem drawn to him because of his positions.”

Trump himself released a video last week reflecting this altered dynamic. “RFK Jr. is going to be taking away votes from Crooked Joe Biden,” Trump said, calling Kennedy “radical left.”

“And he should, because he’s actually better than Biden. He’s much better than Biden. If I were a Democrat, I’d vote for RFK Jr. every single time over Biden.”

While Kennedy had support in the mid-teens nationally when he announced his candidacy last fall, that figure has fallen into the single digits since.

Still, in a Wall Street Journal poll last month of the seven states that will likely determine the election, Kennedy averaged 11% support, while the other potential third-party and independent candidates were getting 2% or less.

And in a recent Wisconsin poll, Kennedy received 16% support from men and 10% from women. Among those with bachelor’s degrees and above ― a group that has otherwise strongly supported Biden ― he received 19 percent.

“No surprise Biden is trying to marginalize him with other Kennedy endorsements,” said David Kochel, a veteran Republican consultant who believes Kennedy would pull from Biden and Trump about equally.

At the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center in Philadelphia, Robert Kennedy Jr.’s name was never mentioned once during the public remarks, neither by Kerry Kennedy nor by Biden — although Kennedy family members have previously criticized their relative’s presidential run.

“What an incredible honor,” Biden said as she introduced him, adding that in the Oval Office, directly across from the Resolute Desk, he keeps busts of King and Robert F. Kennedy.

“He inspired me. And his passion and courage inspired my generation,” Biden said of the elder Robert, the former attorney general who was gunned down during his own presidential campaign in 1968.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign referred queries about the endorsement to a statement he had posted on social media.

“I hear some of my family will be endorsing President Biden today. I am pleased they are politically active — it’s a family tradition. We are divided in our opinions but united in our love for each other,” Kennedy wrote.

After the endorsement speeches in the gym, Biden and the Kennedys moved to another room in the building, where his campaign had set up a training center for volunteers to learn about phone banking and canvassing.

“’We believe, we fight, we win — we get to do it with President Joe Biden,” Joe Kennedy III told the 150 or so gathered.