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The history of independent or third-party candidates in U.S. presidential elections is a fascinating narrative of challenging the dominant two-party system. Such candidates have often brought forward ideas that were initially outside the mainstream but eventually gained traction. For example, Ross Perot's 1992 campaign as an independent drew significant attention with his focus on fiscal responsibility, capturing nearly 19% of the popular vote—a modern record for a third-party candidate. 

Image of a Stalking Horse

Originally a term used in hunting, a “Stalking Horse” was used to attract wild foul to a horse or horse-like figure within firing range.  This allowed the hunter to remain out of sight until the most advantageous time.  

In elections, a stalking horse strategy is when a political candidate or party strategically nominates or supports another individual’s run for office with the intention of splitting the vote or diverting attention from a stronger opponent. This tactic is often employed to manipulate election outcomes by creating confusion or diluting support for a particular candidate. Essentially, the stalking horse candidate serves as a decoy to advance the interests of the party or candidate that orchestrated their candidacy. While not always illegal, it raises ethical concerns regarding transparency and fair electoral processes.

Recent comments and historical context of Robert Kennedy Jr’s candidacy in the 2024 cycle raises serious questions about the motives behind his campaign.  It is fair to question whether he is running for President or if he is only running to spoil President Biden’s re-election and tip the scale for former President Trump.


According to news reports, the single biggest donor to both Donald Trump’s and Robert Kennedy Jr’s 2024 Super PACs came from the same person - Timothy Mellon.  


Donald Trump and RFK Jr have the same largest Donor
  • Mellon gave $20 million to Trump’s America First Action Super Pac in 2020 and is a “longtime” Republican donor.

  • Already in this election cycle, Mellon has given more than $35 million combined to both Trump’s and Kennedy Jr’s super PACs.

Kennedy Ballot Strategy Will Not Get Him Elected

To win a Presidential election any candidate must be on (and win) enough states to amass 270 electoral votes.  According to an analysis of independent candidates in 2024 by Brookings, Kennedy’s campaign has only achieved ballot access in eight states where the total number of electoral votes equals 51.  

Article discussing whether RFK Jr will be a spoiler in the presidential race

“Note that in the eight states where the Kennedy campaign claims to have achieved ballot access, the total is only 51 electoral college votes. And, in addition to North Carolina, the only other state in this group that is a swing state is New Hampshire. Nonetheless, if Kennedy costs Biden New Hampshire’s four electoral college votes and North Carolina’s 16 electoral college votes, these two states could decide the election.” 

Brookings findings in April 2024 are consistent with the strategy outlined by Tony Lyons, founder of Kennedy’s Super PAC.   In December 2023, Lyons was clear in a statement that the goal is to focus on less than 270 electoral votes:

“The seven states we will initially focus on have a total of 183 electoral college votes.”  

Kennedy and Trump Boosting Each Other in Media and Mirroring Policy Rhetoric

RFK Jr recounts border visit

Throughout the campaign, Trump and Kennedy have spoken positively about each other.  Former President Trump has spoken often about the benefit that RFK Jr’s campaign could potentially have for his election effort against President Biden.  And, in policy areas such as immigration and the border their language is very similar:

Kennedy:  “Ruthless criminal cartels have woven drugs, immigration, and human trafficking together into a multi-billion dollar business.”

Trump:  “They’re bringing drugs.  They’re bringing crime.  They’re rapists.”

It is worth asking whether RFK Jr’s campaign is running an authentic campaign as an alternative to Biden and Trump or as a stalking horse to prevent Biden from being re-elected.The concern about RFK Jr’s authenticity comes from donor overlap and ballot strategy as well as recent statements by his campaign about their strategies and intentions:

RFK Jr Campaign official says her No 1 priority is preventing Biden from winning

“If the Republicans face, well, I guess accepted the fact that New York, Maryland, Illinois, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, most of the northeast is going to go blue, why wouldn’t we put our vote to Bobby and at least get rid of Biden and get those 28 electoral votes in New York … give those 28 electoral votes to Bobby rather than to Biden, thereby reducing Biden’s 270,” 



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