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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. mulls running for president as Libertarian as he struggles with ballot access

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says he is looking into running for president as a Libertarian, since he still faces significant hurdles in gaining ballot access in the vast majority of states as an independent candidate. 

"That's something that we're looking at," he told CNN's Michael Smerconish Monday, in response to a question about whether he'd consider a Libertarian bid. 

"We have a really good relationship with Libertarian Party," Kennedy added.

Kennedy, who began his pursuit of the presidency as a Democrat early last year and then left the party to run as an independent, noted that at the end of February he'll be addressing California's Libertarian Party convention. 

"We are talking to Libertarian Party. I feel very comfortable with most of the values of the Libertarian Party...and like I say, we have good relationships. I'm talking regularly to Libertarian groups. So, we'll continue to do those talks," Kennedy said. 

Smerconish played a a podcast interview from last fall with the head of the Libertarian Party, Angela McArdle. She, too, said the party and Kennedy had been having "a lot of good conversations" and are "on good terms."

"I respect his decision to want to go independent. But Libertarians really admire the strong position against mandates and lockdowns, and so we're going to stay on friendly terms and see what happens," McArdle said on the podcast. 

Kennedy has qualified for the ballot in only one state so far, Utah. He has also met the signature threshold in New Hampshire but hasn't filed because his campaign is still finalizing its paperwork. 

An individual who wants to run for president essentially has two avenues to ballot access — running as an independent candidate or as the nominee of a party. The two major political parties have presidential ballot lines in all 50 states, but other parties must collect signatures and meet individual state ballot access requirements. The Libertarian Party succeeded in obtaining a ballot line in all 50 states in both 2016 and 2020, but it's not clear whether it has achieved full ballot access for 2024 yet.  

In some cases, the number of signatures required may be lower for a party than it is for independent candidates seeking ballot access. With this in mind, earlier this month, Kennedy's campaign filed paperwork to create a new political party called "We the people" in California, Delaware, Hawaii, Mississippi and North Carolina. In Texas, the campaign created the "Texas Independence Party" as a way to lower the signature threshold. 

"The number of signatures needed to get Kennedy on the ballot in every state has been reduced by about 330,000, a third of the total needed nationwide" the campaign said in a press release in Jan. The number was originally about 1 million nationwide. 

"We have our own political party now in six states, which have rules that give us an advantage to have our own political party," Kennedy said. 

However, while it's true the number of signatures required may be lower for new parties than for independent candidates, in some cases, winning ballot access will be more difficult. That is, instead of collecting signatures on a petition, some states, like California and Delaware, require a certain number of voters to register for the "We the People Party" to get Kennedy on the ballot. 

In California, the Kennedy campaign will need to convince 75,000 voters to register for his "We The People" party. As an independent candidate, he would have had to collect 219,403 signatures to get on the ballot. In Delaware, the campaign will need to win over 760 voters and get them to register for Kennedy's new party. An independent bid would require 7,676 signatures.

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