Robert’s presidential ambitions rocked the Kennedy family. Ahead of his brother’s announcement in April, Chris said in an interview with POLITICO that there was “strong conversation within the family” about Robert running. “We all shared our honest thoughts with him. That’s what a big Irish Catholic family would do.”
One of the most important names in Democratic politics, the Kennedys didn’t let it go. Conversations urging him to leave continued. Chris said family members encountered him at large family events in Hyannis Harbor and Cape Cod. They brought it up with him in text chains and zoom meetings. “None of us like conflict between us,” Chris said, but when they do, “it’s full communication.”
Robert’s siblings spent months in limbo trying to get their brother out of the race. But in the end, Chris said, “It was his decision.” Robert Kennedy Jr.’s campaign did not return a request for comment.
Biden was never in danger of losing the nomination, but Robert’s candidacy was an embarrassment for Democrats. Robert, a longtime environmental advocate and anti-vaccine activist, appeared to be getting a counter-vote from Democrats, who said Biden was too weak to run again with Trump.
But an independent in Kennedy’s predecessor Early polls seem to suggest that The anti-vaccine sentiments he espouses may appeal to more Republicans than Democrats.
Chris thinks there is something to the argument. “With Bobby no longer running as a Democrat, it has taken a lot of pressure off us,” he said. “We love our brother. We love our party. We love our president. At the end of the day, it’s better for him to run as an independent and influence President Trump.
But since they belong to a party that has seen the presidency slip away thanks to third-party spoilers, the other Kennedy siblings weren’t so generous about Robert’s move.
“Our brother Bobby running against Joe Biden as a third-party candidate is dangerous for our country,” Robert’s sister said. Rory Kennedy shared on social media channels. “We condemn his candidacy and believe it is dangerous for our country.” Kerry Kennedy, Joseph B. Kennedy II and Kathleen Kennedy also signed the statement.
Chris didn’t sign off on that sentiment, saying Robert’s move is more likely to help Biden.
“We hope that he will have the support of President Trump and that he will ultimately help Joe Biden,” Chris said, adding that his brother’s departure was a “sign of strength” for Biden. “No other candidate with the charisma of Bobby is even considering running. If Bobby can’t beat Biden, I don’t think anyone can.
Running in Chicago business circles, Chris involved himself with politics. He ran for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Illinois in 2018 and lost to incumbent Governor JP Pritzker. He sees early anecdotal evidence that Robert’s run is appealing to his Republican friends.
“The people I know who are most vocal about their support for Bobby are my traditional Republican friends,” Chris said. “As a Kennedy, only Bobby, with that kind of charisma, could attract Republican support.”
Chris expects his brother’s campaign to arrive during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday in Hyannis Harbor. About 120 members of the family will gather, and everyone will have another chance to say what they think of Robert’s candidacy.
One family member who isn’t critical is Ethel Kennedy, the matriarch, who Chris said is “unquestionably supportive of her children.” “But he has a photo of President Biden on his coat rack.”