(CNN) — There are few things in life you can be more certain of than that either the Democrat or the Republican party will always win the presidential election in the United States. There are generally no third parties or independents in this country. Either Democrat Joe Biden or Republican Donald Trump will be elected within a year.
But it would be foolish to dismiss what the current polls are telling us: Robert F. is more independent than any independent or third-party candidate in a generation. Kennedy Jr. polls better. He, along with other non-mainstream party candidates, has a real chance to influence the outcome of the 2024 election.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s numbers
Check out the latest survey Quinnipiac University: Kennedy reached 22% of registered voters. That number seemed too high to me, so I went to research historical studies.
He was the last independent presidential candidate to receive more than 20% support in a poll conducted a year before the election Rose Perot In 1992 he received 19% of the popular vote.
Perot is an exception, as independent or third-party candidates tend to fade as the election approaches. John Anderson topped 20% during the 1980 campaign, but had only 7% in November. In 1968, former Alabama Governor George Wallace reached 21% as a third-party candidate in pre-election polls, compared to 14% when the vote was called.
However, surprisingly, these three are the only candidates in electoral history from a non-majority party to exceed 20% a year before the election. Kennedy is now part of this select group.
Also, those three previous candidates got 5% (if not 10%) of the final result.
We don’t know where Kennedy will end up, obviously. However, his numbers in swing states should turn heads. According to studies of The New York Times and Siena CollegeKennedy was 25% to 25% in the six closest states where Biden won over Trump in 2020: Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Michigan.
The Times/Sienna polls are notable because they sparked nervousness among some Democrats and cheers among some Republicans earlier this week. Trump won more votes than Biden in five states among registered voters and among the electorate in four of them.
If the final results match those polls, Trump will win the election.
But while Kennedy was presented as a favorite among likely voters, Trump only led Biden in two states (Georgia and Nevada). Their 5-point leads at Arizona and Pennsylvania faded into ties. While the two were tied in Michigan, Biden held the lead within the margin of error in Pennsylvania.
In other words, thanks to Kennedy the Electoral College turned into a mess with a clear Trump lead in the polls without a clear preference for victory. Both Biden (34%) and Trump (36%) had less than 40% in six states.
It is not surprising that an independent candidate can get such a large vote share. Negative ratings for both Biden and Trump are around 50 points in the Times/Sienna survey (and others). They join Democrats Hillary Clinton and Trump in 2016 as the two most favored candidates for their party’s nomination in polling history.
Other candidates in the race
With all of this in mind, it’s not surprising that we’ll see other independent and third-party candidates jump in or jump into the 2024 race.
Independent Colonel West was the latest Quinnipiac and received 6% and 4% of the vote CNN/SSRS.
Jill Stein announced her 2024 Green Party candidacy on Thursday. He won about 1% of the vote nationally in 2016, but won more votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin than Trump won in those states over Clinton.
On Thursday, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has said he won’t run for re-election next year. He considered the idea of running as a third-party candidate earlier in the year. Manchin scored 10% as a no-name candidate in a PRRI poll over the summer.
Now, none of these non-majority party candidates are likely to win. But that doesn’t matter when we talk about them.
They’re worth talking about because they’re more likely to get more votes than usual from the major parties, leaving many Americans disillusioned. The eventual winner may come up significantly short of the majority.
If political analysts don’t take into account the fact that some polls show someone like Kennedy polling more than 20%, they’re missing a possible sign of where 2024 is headed.