Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong. A leading anti-vaxxer is presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. He has repeatedly compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust. Rolling Stone and Salon retracted an RFK article linking vaccines to autism.
Kennedy's Monday announcement is most likely to have an outsized impact on the 2024 election in Georgia, where only 59 percent of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Nationally, 69 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Only eight other states have rates lower than Georgia—Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Wyoming—all of which are Republican strongholds.
...There has been debate over whether it will be the Republicans or the Democrats who feel the effects of Kennedy's bid, with some arguing that an independent Kennedy could attract centrist voters who think Biden is too progressive and others arguing that Kennedy being on the ballot could pull votes away from Trump's anti-government supporters.
When it comes to Georgia's vaccine critics, Trey Hood, a political science professor at the University of Georgia focused on southern politics, told Newsweek that Kennedy's announcement would hinder Trump's campaign.
"You might have a certain subset of Republicans who really want to sort of vote against [former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony] Fauci... if they're really still upset about the pandemic and the vaccinations," Hood said. "[Kennedy] would probably take votes away from Trump more than from Biden."
Attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s pivot Monday to an independent run for president met immediate resistance from Republican leaders, who have concluded that his new effort threatens to cannibalize their vote share next year, helping to reelect President Biden.
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The Republican National Committee greeted his announcement with a press release that described Kennedy as “just another radical, far-left Democrat,” with a number of talking points that could be used by the expansive network of conservative commentators who tend to take messaging cues from the party.
“Make no mistake — a Democrat in Independent’s clothing is still a Democrat. RFK Jr. cannot hide from his record of endorsing Hillary, supporting the Green New Deal, fighting against the Keystone Pipeline, and praising AOC’s tax hikes — he is your typical elitist liberal and voters won’t be fooled,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.
Steven Cheung, a spokesman for former president Donald Trump’s campaign, echoed the condemnation. “Voters should not be deceived by anyone who pretends to have conservative values,” Cheung said in a statement. An “RFK candidacy is nothing more than a vanity project for a liberal Kennedy to cash in on his family’s name.”