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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to run for president as an independent, end Democratic primary campaign

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Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. makes a campaign announcement at a press conference on October 9, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Jessica Kourkounis | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said he will abandon his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and instead run for the White House as an independent.

Kennedy’s move raises the chances that he will play a spoiler in the 2024 election.

Kennedy announced his break with the national Democratic Party at an event in Philadelphia on Monday.

“How are we going to win against the established Washington interests? It’s not by playing by the corrupt rules that the corrupt powers and the vested interests have rigged to keep us in their thrall,” Kennedy said in a video released Friday, teasing his “major announcement.”

In it, he decried what he claimed was “corruption” in “the leadership of both political parties.”

His late father, Sen. Robert Kennedy of New York, and late uncle, President John F. Kennedy, are icons of the Democratic Party.

The shift comes as Kennedy lags far behind President Joe Biden in national polls of Democratic voters a little more than a year out from the 2024 election.

In addition to Biden’s incumbent status, which makes it very difficult to challenge him from within the party, Kennedy also holds views that put him at odds with the majority of Democratic voters.

Kennedy first garnered national political attention for pushing baseless anti-vaccine conspiracies during the Covid-19 pandemic. But he also opposes U.S. aid to Ukraine as that country defends itself against Russian invasion.

Positions like these have helped to endear Kennedy to high-profile figures on the far right, who typically align with former President Donald Trump.

In July, while Kennedy was running as a Democrat, the former president heaped praise on him. “He’s a very smart guy,” Trump told Fox Business. “And he’s hit a little bit of a nerve. And a lot of Democrats I know want to vote for him.”

As polls increasingly show Trump ever more likely to sweep the Republican presidential primary, the prospect of an independent run by Kennedy is being viewed by the White House as a potentially serious threat to Biden’s reelection.

Former Sen. Hillary Clinton, the onetime Democratic presidential nominee, warned Biden earlier this month at the White House not to underestimate the potential impact of a third party challenge on a two-person race, NBC News reported.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein is widely viewed as having cut into Clinton’s 2016 support in key Midwestern states, potentially tipping the election in Trump’s favor that year.

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