Republicans, Democrats say ‘I’m in’

Republicans, Democrats say ‘I’m in’

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. drew hundreds from across the political spectrum to a rally in Utah’s capital Thursday night, as the political scion crisscrosses the US in a push to make the ballot in all 50 states.

Spectators lined up outside of the SKY nightclub an hour in advance to get good seats, with some telling The Post they felt energized enough to get politically involved for the first time in their lives.

“I am definitely for Kennedy,” said Lynn Cleland, who added that some of his Republican friends are also on board with the 69-year-old.

“I’ve never voted independent in my life. Not only am I voting, but I’ve applied to volunteer, to get the signatures. I’ve bought all the signage. I’ve never, ever done that, and I’m 74.”

With less than a year to go before Election Day, the son of the late attorney general and senator from New York — and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy — is averaging 15.8% national support in a four-way race against President Biden, former president Donald Trump, and fellow independent Cornel West, according to RealClearPolitics.

Kennedy’s goal is to be on the ballot in every state and to make it to the debate stage for the general election debates. Diana Glebova for NY Post
Kennedy supporters stretch down the block an hour before the rally in Salt Lake City. Diana Glebova for NY Post

That figure could go even higher, as a New York Times/Siena College poll of swing state voters found last month that Kennedy averaged 24% support in a three-cornered fight against Trump and Biden.

Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac University poll from July showed 47% of Americans would consider a third party candidate if Trump and Biden are the Republican and Democratic nominees next year.

When questioned by The Post, supporters of Kennedy said they were excited or intrigued by his platform, as well as his background in environmental activism and his skepticism of vaccines — including the COVID-19 shot.

The venue changed several times to accommodate the number of Utahns who registered, according to the Kennedy campaign. Diana Glebova for NY Post

“He’s a breath of fresh air. I’ve listened to a lot of political debates and he’s the only person where I’ve really understood what he’s saying,” Kelley Tyburski said. “I think just foundational, who he is, I just really connect with. Values over all.”

Marie Carmel and Lisa Draper said they were drawn to RFK Jr.’s lack of “infighting” with the other candidates and his focus on the middle class.

“This is the first time we’ve done any type of rally, so this is a big deal for us,” said Carmel, while Draper noted this is the first election cycle she didn’t want to vote for either of the likely major party nominees.

Donald Trump is leading the GOP primary by over 40 points over his primary challenger Ron DeSantis. AP

Another rally attendee, Autumn Doyle, told The Post she was “bred” on the left, but feels like she doesn’t fit in with either Republicans or Democrats. To her, Kennedy’s past as an environmental lawyer especially gives him points.

“I’d say I’m in the camp,” she said. “If he makes it onto the ballot, I’d vote for him. Maybe I could convince some family members too.”

Another way RFK Jr. could get in front of voters is if he makes the three scheduled general election debates next fall. If his national support stays above 15%, he would be the first third-party candidate to make the stage since Ross Perot in 1992.

Aleksi Hernandez-Nietling poses in a Kennedy 2024 shirt. Diana Glebova for NY Post

“Absolutely, absolutely, put him on that debate stage,” gushed Aleksi Hernandez-Nietling, 22. “He’s about to show the world.”

Noting the size of the crowd, Hernandez-Nietling added, “that’s the energy he’s creating nationwide. Just energy, excitement, hope for the future.”

Other attendees liked Kennedy’s views, but were hesitant to make a full pledge a year out from the election.

Kennedy argued “no other candidate is putting crowds together like this other than President Trump.” Diana Glebova for NY Post

“I love this guy. I started following him when the pandemic started, and he’s been right on everything,” said Dan Brett, who added he was “testing” out Kennedy, and had previously voted Republican.

“He actually looks at the issues we care about,” said Julie Neville, who lined up an hour before the event began. “I’m thrilled that people are coming out of their little bubble because I feel like a lot of people have blinders on.”

The Kennedy campaign is strategically going to states with looming ballot deadlines and which don’t require the candidate to make a vice presidential pick or choose their electors, spokesperson Stefanie Spear told The Post.

On stage, Kennedy harkened back to the state of America under his late uncle, and criticized US interventionism abroad as well as rising inflation at home.

“I’m drawing equally from the Republican and Democratic Party,” Kennedy told reporters. “I’m drawing more independents than any other candidate.”

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