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(LifeSiteNews) – Environmental activist and longtime Democrat Robert F. Kennedy Jr. confirmed Monday he is dropping his Democrat presidential primary bid in favor of running as an independent in the 2024 general election.

Kennedy, nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy and son of the late Attorney General Robert Kennedy, announced in April he would be running in the Democrat primary against incumbent President Joe Biden, presenting himself as a challenger to the orthodoxies of both parties, but for months contended that party leadership had “rigged” the primary process against him. Kennedy is on leave from his duties as Chairman of the Board and Chief Legal Counsel for Children’s Health Defense as he campaigns.

At the end of September, rumors began that Kennedy would be changing course in response to his party’s resistance, rumors he confirmed Monday at an event in Philadelphia.

“This country is ready for a history-making change,” he declared. “They are ready to reclaim their freedom, their independence. And that’s why I am here today. I am here to declare myself an independent candidate for president of the United States.”

During his speech, Kennedy said “dangerous” unrest was being tormented by “eighty percent of our country” being unable to “afford a middle-class lifestyle,” and contended Americans “tired of the culture wars” were “ready to reclaim their freedom and independence.”

In recent years, Kennedy has garnered praise along non-traditional lines and even among some conservatives for his harsh criticism of COVID-19 lockdowns, mandates, and vaccines, though he retains far-left views on issues such as abortion, environmentalism, and affirmative action

Since entering the Democrat primary, Kennedy has enjoyed favorable treatment on the Right, including both pro-Trump and anti-Trump camps. But that began to change upon word of his independent bid, and uncertainty over whether he would pull more votes from Biden or Trump.

“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,” Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney McDaniel said Monday.

As detailed by LifeSiteNews, actual polling on how Kennedy would factor into the election is currently scarce, but what little has been conducted so far suggests a slight boost to Trump in the national popular vote, with other previous polling indicating that more Democrats are open to supporting a third-party candidate than Democrats.

The Trump campaign itself has reportedly reached the opposite conclusion, however, and is preparing to attack Kennedy based on internal polling suggesting he would take just enough votes from Trump, who still embraces his administration’s controversial COVID-19 vaccines, to make a difference.

The Kennedy factor hangs over a race in which both parties are contending with significant concerns about their own candidates, from Trump’s multiple legal battles severely impacting his ability to campaign in a general election to Biden’s advanced age and pattern of public confusion raising fears of a public episode that convinces voters he is incapable of the job. 

Biden critics on the Left want the president to step aside for reelection in favor of a younger Democrat such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom; Trump critics on the Right advocate nominating Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a fierce critic of the medical establishment, instead of Trump.

Trump maintains a commanding lead over DeSantis for the nomination, but while he leads Biden in some national polls, he is projected to lose the Electoral College by election forecaster RacetotheWH. The next election is more than a year away, and numerous future variables – Biden’s health, Trump’s trials, a Kennedy run, new national crises – could impact all these outcomes in either direction.

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