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Keller: Joe Biden, Donald Trump right to be worried about RFK Jr.

Who could RFK Jr. hurt more Biden or Trump?
Who could RFK Jr. hurt more Biden or Trump? 03:00

BOSTON - Who is Nicole Shanahan, introduced this week as independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s running mate? "A brilliant scientist, technologist, a fierce warrior mom," said Kennedy.

Another key qualification he didn't mention - she's a multi-millionaire who appears willing to spend big on this campaign. Shanahan put up $4 million out of her pocket to fund a controversial Super Bowl ad transposing Kennedy's face on an old John F. Kennedy campaign commercial.

That move infuriated members of the Kennedy family, some of whom have been pushing back hard against Bobby's candidacy, posing recently for a group photo at the White House in support of President Joe Biden and making it clear they think the campaign's a sham. As JFK's grandson Jack Schlossberg put it in a widely circulated video: "He's trading in on Camelot, celebrity, conspiracy theories and conflict for personal gain and fame." 

Nonetheless, after dropping out of the Democratic race last fall to run as an independent, Kennedy is generating some surprisingly healthy results.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Independent US presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via Getty Images

In a recent national Harvard/Harris poll, Kennedy had a net favorability rating 13 points better than former President Donald Trump and 24 points higher than Biden. And in a three-person race, he pulls 15% support, 23% among the all-important independents.

That's in the ballpark with Ross Perot's 19% showing in 1992, the best showing by a non-major party candidate in a century, which helped Bill Clinton replace George H.W. Bush in the White House.

So, who could Kennedy hurt more come November? If he can get on enough state ballots, that might be the biggest wild card in the race.

As that family photo op shows, Biden clearly hopes to smother any Kennedy threat. But the Republicans have been on the attack too, casting Kennedy as a liberal Democrat whose appeals to right-wing anti-government and anti-vaccine sentiment are the acts of a political trojan horse.

They're both right to be worried. Kennedy has a famous name, fresh funding thanks to his new running mate, and if ever there was a good time to be a pox-on-both-their-houses candidate, it's this year. 

But history shows us that third-party candidates tend to fade down the stretch as voters focus. And there is some polling evidence that the more they get to know about Kennedy, the less they like him. 

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