On Friday, Democratic nominee hopeful Robert F. Kennedy Jr. called out Joe Biden’s “fitness” for office and issued a challenge for a primary debate.
“President Biden could put to rest any concerns about his fitness for office by engaging me in a vigorous, issues-oriented debate. Let’s end the speculation and let the voters see for themselves,” wrote Kennedy on X, formerly known as Twitter.
While the Democratic National Committee has positioned itself to prevent such a debate, it doesn’t address Kennedy’s polling share — which might cost the party in 2024.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s median aggregate polling data on Saturday, Kennedy holds 13.2% in Democratic primary polls while Biden holds 63.8%.
However, in an Emerson College poll matchup between Biden, former President Donald Trump, and civil rights activist, long shot scholar Cornel West, Trump wins, partly due to West “hurt[ing]” support for Biden. But West isn’t considered a “major” candidate according to FiveThirtyEight, and Kennedy, who is polling much higher, wasn’t cited as an option.
“Despite losing ground in the Republican primary, support for Donald Trump in a hypothetical matchup against Joe Biden increased two points since last week’s poll,” said executive director of Emerson College Polling, Spencer Kimball. “Cornel West continues to draw support from 7% of independents, 8% from Black voters, and 7% from Hispanics, key demographics that drove Biden’s 2020 victory.”
Despite calls for a debate among Democratic contenders, support for President Biden from DNC powers appears unwavering. When executive director of the DNC, Sam Cornale, was asked in August 2022 about potential primary challenges, he said, “We’re with Biden. Period.”
Andrew Yang, former presidential candidate, said tradition could lead to split ticket
Former Democrat presidential candidate Andrew Yang said reliance on political tradition could lead to a split ticket for Democrats in 2024. His comments came as he discussed the issues he sees with President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.
“I think that people should be running in a more competitive environment against Joe, even though he is the sitting president,” said Yang in a conversation with Axios.
“The problem is that the DNC and Joe do not want Joe debating [Robert F. Kennedy] Jr. or anyone else, and it’s a real problem,” said Yang.
“If you don’t debate RFK Jr., then he has a stronger case to say, look, I didn’t get a fair shake, so I’m going to run in the general,” according to Yang.
According to FiveThirtyEight, Biden was neck and neck with former President Trump in a hypothetical 2024 matchup on Tuesday. If RFK were to siphon off support from President Biden in the general election, it could result in Trump taking a substantial lead.
Calls for Joe Biden to participate in primary debates aren’t new. Jim Kessler, a Democrat operative and executive vice president of policy at a centrist think tank, told the Hill in June that President Biden should not debate other Democrat party candidates.
“You have to earn your way to the debate stage,” said Kessler to the Hill. “These folks are light years short of that.”
According to the University of Virginia Center for Politics, no sitting president has participated in a primary debate.