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Newsmax Cheerleads For RFK Jr., Part 2

After heavily (and ironically) touting Robert Kennedy Jr.'s presidential campaign, Newsmax started losing interest when he moved from running as a Democrat to an independent. But it found a new Democratic candidate to tout in Dean Phillips.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 1/22/2024

Robert Kennedy Jr.

Newsmax's highly favorable treatment of Robert Kennedy Jr.'s presidential campaign continued into September as Kennedy became even more vocal about how Democrats were supposedly treating him (though he had also revealed just how much he had been depending on right-wing media to fuel his campaign):

A Sept. 20 press release-esque article by Eric Mack crowed how "Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a member of one of the most famous political families in history, was seen on social media with one-hit wonder, country-folk singer Oliver Anthony" of 'Rich Men North of Richmond' fame, declaring that "RFK Jr.'s presidential platform shares its working-class message with Anthony's song."

In the wake of those complaints, Newsmax started teasing that Kennedy was planning to quit the Democratic primary and run as an independent. Michael Katz touted the plan in a Sept. 29 article that gave space to Kennedy's complaints, then speculated who might be affected by it:

What effect Kennedy's independent run will have on the 2024 election is unknown. Although popular within the liberal bloc that makes up the Democratic Party, he also is popular with Republicans, considering his stance on COVID-19 vaccines, his views on the deep state, and his ideas for protecting the southern border.

Still, Kennedy, Green Party candidate Cornel West, and whoever is nominated by the No Labels unity party could peel more votes away from Biden than the Republican nominee, who at this point will be former President Donald Trump, some media outlets have concluded.

Newsmax then decided to push the narrative that an independent Kennedy run would hurt Biden. Luca Cacciatore did just that in another Sept. 29 article:

Matt Schlapp, chair of the American Conservative Union, told Newsmax that Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s decision to run as an independent could harm President Joe Biden.


However, Schlapp acknowledged, Kennedy "has taken some positions that a lot of conservatives like," including opposition to COVID-19 vaccine mandates and illegal immigration.

"I think it's a very open question as to who it harms. My guess is it really harms Biden," Schlapp concluded. "It just sends another message to this Democratic coalition [that] it's pretty fractured. It's pretty fragile. I think it could break up."

An Oct. 1 column by John Gizzi noted the difficulty an independent candidate would have in getting on the ballot in all 50 states and gaining enough support to qualify to appear in a debate, but he found people to insist that this would hurt Biden:

As for Kennedy's potential strength in November, [New Hampshire election operative Tom] Rath said "the most I could see for him would be to hurt one of the major party candidates in key states where a state could be won by less than a 50 percent share. I suppose in that regard, Kennedy would be more of a problem for Biden because he could make it possible for the Republican candidate to win the state with a plurality as opposed to a majority of the vote."

Bill Ballenger, editor of the much-read, online newsletter on Michigan politics The Ballenger Report, agreed. In his words, "I would think RFK Jr. would hurt Biden more because of the Kennedy name. His policy positions that might be attractive to conservative Republican voters have someone else to vote for with similar positions — Trump!"

"He's likely to hurt Biden more," concluded G. Terry Madonna, long considered the premier pollster in Pennsylvania, "He's no threat to Biden but could earn some votes from Biden's base. Biden has had a huge lead over Kennedy in the polls [of Democrats]."

Gizzi did quote another campaign operative who admitted that there are "anti-Trump Republicans who might wish to cast a protest vote for RFK Jr."

Trump-fluffer Dick Morris unsurprisingly declared in an Oct. 1 column that an independent Kennedy run would indisputably hurt Biden:

As long as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. focuses his ambitions on a Democratic primary challenge to President Joe Biden, he will do little damage to him.

But if Kennedy runs as an independent on a third-party line, Biden's chances of winning reelection next year are over.

Pollster John McLaughlin shows in a recent survey Kennedy winning 15% of the vote in a Democratic primary.

But the McLaughlin survey also shows that in a general election Kennedy draws 2-to-1 more from Biden's voters than he does from former President Donald Trump's.

Indeed, I believe any third candidate would likely drain whatever life is left in a Biden reelection.


Were he to run as an independent, he would harvest bushels of votes from those who already have decided to vote against Trump, but at the same time don't like Biden and are deeply concerned about his fitness for office.

Were Biden not the incumbent, Kennedy would pose a real challenge in the primary.

But with the Democratic party faithful paralyzed by fear of Trump, few feel free to throw their support behind Kennedy.

But if Kennedy runs as third party candidate, Biden's support will crack — and all the king's horses and all the king's men won't be able to put his candidacy back together again.

Morris did not disclose that McLaughlin is Trump's campaign pollster and his polling shouldn't be trusted as objective.

Larry Bell pushed similar pro-Kennedy arguments in his Oct. 2 column:

With incumbent Joe Biden lagging former president Donald Trump in recent polls by as much as double digits as terrifyingly reported in a Sept. ABC-Washington Post survey, Democrats have valid reasons to worry about even bleaker prospects ahead with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. further draining their voter base as an independent competitor.

RFK Jr. was previously polling as a Democrat primary candidate with about 15% support before switching parties for the ’24 run.

Kennedy and leaders of his former party have had major policy disagreements which became particularly rancorous regarding mandated Biden administration COVID-19 vaccinations which he believes to be unsafe as well as ineffective.

A more recent dust up involved the Department of Homeland Security’s refusal to detail Secret Service protection to Kennedy as customary policy for a major presidential candidate.

This denial ignored special considerations that both his uncle, former President John. F. Kennedy and father, a presidential candidate, were assassinated, and that an armed man impersonating a police officer falsely claiming to be a member of his security detail was arrested at a recent Los Angeles campaign event.

In fact, the Secret Service offers security details only to "major" presidential candidates -- something Kennedy has yet to prove himself to be. Bell then conceded the cynical calculation he and other right-wingers are making in boosting Kennedy:

Whereas Biden’s age is often cited as an important detraction, inferred senility, incompetence and a long career history of dishonesty are painfully obvious to all who are paying attention.

In stark contrast, RFK, Jr. comes across as an intelligent, articulate, principled and deeply committed competitor for dwindling Democrat support.

Above all, majority voters on all sides, Democrat, Republican and independent, appear most agreeably concerned regarding two key issues, the economy and illegal migration, with neither disaster likely to improve prior to 2024 balloting.


Can Kennedy actually win against Trump? I seriously doubt it.

But with his welcome help, America can.

Thanks for admitting it's all about getting Trump back in the White House, Larry.

An Oct. 3 column by Jeff Crouere declared that running as an independent is "a smart decision by Kennedy since he is going nowhere as a Democrat [sic] presidential candidate as the party’s nomination process is rigged in favor of Biden," adding: "Kennedy’s voice is being silenced as a Democrat. Becoming an independent candidate will not only boost his campaign, but it will also help Americans reclaim our country."

Newsmax did slip in a rare dissenting view, though, in the form of a Sept. 19 article featuring John F. Kennedy's grandson calling RFK Jr.'s candidacy "an embarrassment."

After the switch

When Kennedy actually made the switch to running as an independent a few days later, however, Newsmax wasn't quite as supportive. It first ran an Oct. 9 wire article about the switch, but followed that with an article by Eric Mack repeating a Republican attack on Kennedy:

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. dropped his presidential primary campaign as a Democrat on Monday to run as an independent, but he will not be getting a pass from the Republican National Committee, saying he "is still a Democrat."

"Make no mistake — a Democrat in Independent's clothing is still a Democrat," RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel wrote in a statement.

RNC Research issued a detailed account of RFK Jr.'s political platform aligning with progressives, making him "just another radical, far-left Democrat."

There was no mention of how Newsmax and other Republicans had supported Kennedy before then, nor any explanation of why the RNC waited until Kennedy switched to an independent run to start attacking him.

On Oct. 10, Newsmax returned to cheerleader mode. An article by Mark Swanson hyped how Kennedy reported "raised more than $11 million in the six hours after he announced a switch from running as a Democrat to an independent for president," and he later appeared on Eric Bolling's Newsmax TV show, where he bashed Biden.

Newsmax's coverage of Kennedy slowed down after that. An Oct. 23 column by Chris Clem gushed that Kennedy's "proposals to address the [alleged border] crisis transcend the usual partisan polarization on the immigration issue and should garner broad support across the political spectrum," but an Oct. 26 article by Michael Katz noted that "Donald Trump Jr. reportedly accused Robert F. Kennedy Jr. of being a Democrat plant Thursday, saying the only reason Kennedy ended his challenge to President Joe Biden and run as an independent in 2024 was to hurt the former president's chances of winning the election." A Nov. 1 article by Eric Mack finally admitted the obvious, that Kennedy draws more from Republicans than Democrats:

Robert Kennedy Jr.'s third-party presidential bid is a talking point for Democrats and Republicans claiming he is going to effectively help elect the other side, but a new analysis shows the donors are more Republican than Democrat.

Donor data not only shows the large tranche of funds into the RFK Jr. campaign are coming from Republican-leaning donors — far more former of President Donald Trump's past donors than President Joe Biden's — but they are also 60% of his donors who have not donated in either of the past two political campaigns, Politico reported.

RFK Jr. is the champion of the American voter base that is disenchanted with both parties, but the donor data analysis sides with the polls saying he will be a greater threat to the Republican presidential nominee over Biden.


There were 2,100 donors giving nearly $2 million that previously made WinRed donations since 2020, while there were 1,700 donors totaling $1.4 million to ActBlue, according to the report, citing Federal Election Commission data on large-dollar donors.

Also, more than 500 of RFK Jr.'s biggest donors donated to Trump in 2020, a figure more than three times as high as those who gave to Biden.

Biden donors are not RFK Jr. supporters. Just a handful have given to those two, while more than 160 large donors have given to both Trump and RFK Jr., according to the FEC.

Mack didn't mention that his employer has been a big booster of Kennedy. An article the next day by Swanson reinforced the point:

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pulls in 22% of votes in a hypothetical 2024 general election matchup against incumbent President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll.

According to the survey results of registered voters released Wednesday, Biden receives 39% to Trump's 36% in the three-way hypothetical. Kennedy, the subject of this month's cover story in Newsmax Magazine, would seem to siphon off more votes from Trump than Biden; the incumbent leads Trump by just one point in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup — 47% to 46%, according to the poll.

Yes, Newsmax had a cover story on Kennedy in his magazine, which it hyped by claiming, "He’s got Democrats running scared. Even if his popularity doesn’t gain steam, many say that’s enough to propel Trump back into the White House." But the only thing it's done on him since was a Nov. 20 article claiming that Kennedy "tops the list of most favored political figures in a Harvard CAPS-Harris poll."

Moving on to Dean Phillips

Though its hyping of RFK Jr. continued to linger a bit, Newsmax was also touting another Democrat with the same goal of disrupting President Biden's re-election. It actually began with a July 2022 article by Jeffrey Rodack repeating how Dean "said he doesn’t want President Joe Biden to run again in 2024," then picked more steam over the past summer. Charles Kim wrote in a July 29 article:

Democratic donors are urging a moderate congressman from Minnesota to challenge President Joe Biden in the 2024 primary.

Politico reported Friday that third-term Rep. Dean Phillips, who represents a suburban district of Minneapolis, is being urged by donors to enter the Democratic primary field for 2024.

The report said that Phillips, 54, is scheduled to meet with donors in New York City next week to explore the possibility of entering the 2024 race.


But despite Phillips' scheduled meeting and his donors' interest, he "is highly unlikely to mount a primary challenge unless Biden's health worsens or his political standing drops precipitously," Politico reported.

The apparently unironically named Charlie McCarthy touted Phillips' would-be campaign in an Aug. 13 article:

A Democrat [sic] lawmaker says President Joe Biden should not run for reelection.

Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., appeared Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" and said he wants Biden to end his campaign for the 2024 Democrat [sic] presidential nomination.

He says his opinion is based on "how people feel" and not based on the 80-year-old president's age.

"I would like to see Joe Biden, a wonderful and remarkable man, pass the torch — cement this extraordinary legacy," Phillips said.

"And by the way, this is not how everybody thinks, but I do believe the majority wants to move on."

Phillips previously called on other Democrats to challenge Biden. He has not committed to running himself.

As Phillips did, in fact, prepare to run himself, Newsmax touted that too:

As Newsmax wound down its promotion of Kennedy after he moved from running a Democrat to an independent, Phillips conveniently replaced him in that spoiler-wannabe space. It published two wire articles on his Oct. 27 candidacy declaration, and it continued to run a series of mostly original articles on him:

There was also a Nov. 23 article by Theodore Bunker noting that Phillips "issued an apology this week after he repeated criticisms of Vice President Kamala Harris while attempting to defend her."

Missing from all this, however, is any reference to an appearance by Dean on Newsmax TV -- it seems that Phillips is not putting a lot of time into catering to right-wing media in order to boost his campaign, presumably because he understands he's only being used by them as a proxy to attack Biden and they will never support him in the general election should he actually win the nomination. Kennedy, by contrast, did numerous interviews with Newsmax and was even featured in a cover story in its magazine.

Morris hopped on the Phillips bandwagon as well. In a Nov. 7 column, Morris declared that "The recent New York Times/Sienna College Poll makes it clear beyond doubt that Donald Trump is headed for a landslide defeat of Joe Biden," and touted Phillips as a Biden spoiler:

The Minnesota Democratic Congressman could upend the plan by winning or doing well in the first-in-the nation New Hampshire primary.

Biden, stupidly, will not be on the ballot. He removed himself to protest the legislature’s decision to stay first in the nation, frustrating Biden’s plan to put South Carolina ahead of it.

With Phillips on the ballot, and Biden having to depend on write-in votes, we may face a rerun of 1968 when Lyndon Johnson depended on write-ins and did not appear on the New Hampshire ballot, opening the way for another Minnesotan, Eugene McCarthy, to draw 42% of the vote, a stunning performance that led to Johnson’s withdrawal.

Phillips has a brilliant campaign message.

He says the only difference between he and Biden is age and physical condition.

He states the obvious truth — that only he is likely to be able to finish a second term.

Such an appeal — loving Biden while opposing him — is likely to draw lots of votes.


In the beginning, Phillips won’t be able to raise any money, but he doesn’t need to, running against Biden. The president’s failure to defeat Trump in the polls will demonstrate sufficiently that the party needs a new candidate and Phillips is as good as anyone to fill the void.

So, it will be a surprise Biden withdrawal at the last minute.

Morris didn't forget to suck up to the guy he really wants as president: "In the meantime, Trump will continue to wage his brilliant campaign of new, important, and attractive ideas, as well as compelling rally speeches."

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