Robert F. Kennedy Jr. & Ross Perot

Ryan Heshmati

December 29, 2023

The Ross Perot of 2024 in some ways, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., is facing polling performance that suggests the campaign is going far worse for him than his 1992 counterpart. A recent poll by J.L. Partners puts Kennedy at 4%, significantly behind President Biden at 36%, and even further behind former President Trump at 40%. Recent presidential election history does not bode well for independent and third-party candidates. Still, Ross Perot’s 1992 run is certainly one of the most impressive, as he obtained nearly 19% of the popular vote. 

Ross Perot, a billionaire technology businessman from Texas, who would later go on to form the Reform party and run on that ticket in 1996, ran as an independent in 1992 against Bill Clinton and then-incumbent George H.W. Bush. While Perot took a sizeable share of the popular vote, he took no states and thus no electoral votes. He performed better than he would in the next election, though, where Perot and his running mate, James Stockdale, received just 8.4% of the vote. 

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is distinguished from Perot for a variety of reasons. He is a member of the politically prominent Kennedy family and is an environmental lawyer, not a technology billionaire. Kennedy has also been the subject of much controversy for his criticism of vaccination. As recent as December 15th, CNN’s Aaron Pellish and Liz Brown-Kaiser reported on Kennedy “… repeating unfounded claims about Covid-19 and vaccines.”

Kennedy’s popularity has waned. Once at 19%, according to a Harvard Caps- Harris Poll The Hill reported on, he has fallen into the low single digits, as aforementioned. The distance between Perot’s 1992 performance and Kennedy’s continues to widen. Vox’s Andrew Prokop notes that in the 1992 election, “By June, polls showed Perot actually winning — with 37 percent of the national vote, compared to 24 percent for Bush and 24 percent for Clinton…” Now, this momentum eventually faded, and Perot actually withdrew from the race only to shortly re-enter but he nevertheless took almost 19% when the election came in November. Kennedy’s weak 4% indicates a much less successful trajectory.

The presidential election’s landscape could change dramatically by November. For instance, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows just decided to bar former President Trump from the state’s primary ballot. Perhaps the old adage “it’s not over until it’s over” provides wisdom. With just under a year to go, there is plenty of time for the environment to shift for Kennedy, however unlikely it may be.