“RFK Jr. set to reveal Nicole Shanahan as his running mate, according to New York Times source” – CNN Politics

“RFK Jr. set to reveal Nicole Shanahan as his running mate, according to New York Times source” – CNN Politics



CNN
 — 

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is expected to announce attorney and entrepreneur Nicole Shanahan as his running mate Tuesday, The New York Times reported, citing two people close to the campaign.

The event marks a critical moment for Kennedy’s White House bid that could accelerate his efforts to gain ballot access in all 50 states. His vice presidential pick, which will be announced at an event in Oakland, California, will also be tasked with broadening Kennedy’s appeal and helping raise money for his big-spending campaign.

Earlier this month, Kennedy told CNN he had already “made up his mind” on a ticket mate. In addition to Shanahan, those considered for the position included former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers, former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, former television host Mike Rowe, motivational speaker Tony Robbins and civil rights lawyer Tricia Lindsay.

Kennedy said in an interview that aired Sunday that the person he had chosen as a running mate “has ties” to the area around Oakland.

“The candidate that we’ve chosen has ties to the area. I also have a great affection for Oakland. My father campaigned there and got tremendous support in 1968 during his presidential campaign,” Kennedy, the son of former US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, told Bay Area Fox affiliate KTVU.

Two members on Kennedy’s reported shortlist of candidates have prominent ties to the Bay Area: Shanahan, who was born in Oakland and was previously married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and Rodgers, who was born in Chico, California, and played football at the University of California, Berkeley.

While major-party presidential candidates typically announce their vice presidential nominees closer to their party’s nominating conventions in the summer, Kennedy is announcing his running mate now so his campaign can move into the next phase of its ballot access efforts. There are 23 states where his campaign can begin collecting signatures for ballot access petitions as soon as it names a vice presidential nominee, according to data provided by the campaign.

Kennedy has set a goal to qualify for the ballot in all 50 states and Washington, DC, but he is so far on the ballot only in Utah. His campaign has said it has gathered enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in New Hampshire, Nevada and Hawaii, while a super PAC backing his White House bid has said it has collected enough signatures to qualify Kennedy in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and South Carolina.

His ballot access in Nevada, however, could be in jeopardy. In a statement to CNN on Monday, Nevada Secretary of State spokesperson Cecilia Heston said “an error” had been made in communicating ballot access guidance to the campaign, which had announced earlier this month that it had gathered enough signatures to qualify. The law indicates candidates must “designate a nominee for Vice President” in their petitions.

Kennedy campaign ballot access attorney Paul Rossi suggested Nevada Democrats were attempting to block Kennedy from gaining ballot access in the state – a claim the secretary of state’s office rejected. “In no way was the initial error or subsequent statutory guidance made with intent to benefit or harm any political party or candidate for office,” Heston said in the statement.

Adding to the numerous ballot access hurdles are challenges from Democrats looking to stifle Kennedy, whom they portray as a spoiler candidate who could help former President Donald Trump defeat President Joe Biden. The Democratic National Committee has filed two complaints with the Federal Election Committee in the past two months, accusing the pro-Kennedy super PAC, American Values 2024, of committing campaign finance violations and of illegally coordinating with the Kennedy campaign to run its own ballot access initiative. Last week, the Democratic Party of Hawaii objected to the Kennedy campaign’s ballot access petition there, temporarily blocking it ahead of a state elections office hearing Thursday.

Aside from the need to begin gathering signatures in more than half the remaining states, Kennedy has offered little insight into the types of voters he’s targeting ahead of his vice presidential announcement. In his interview with CNN earlier this month, Kennedy said his running mate would be “somebody who was aligned with my values, optimistic about our country and its potential, and able to run the country at a moment’s notice.”

Following reports that Kennedy had met with Rodgers about the possibility of joining the campaign, CNN reported that the NFL star had shared in private conversations conspiracy theories about the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting not being real, including in one instance to CNN anchor Pamela Brown. In response, Rodgers said in a social media post he has “never been of the opinion that the events did not take place” and called the shooting “an absolute tragedy.” In a statement to CNN, Kennedy campaign spokesperson Stefanie Spear called the Sandy Hook shooting “a horrific tragedy.”

Last week, CNN reported that Robbins and Kennedy had met as early as 2023 about Robbins being Kennedy’s running mate. But Robbins made clear to Kennedy that he did not believe this was the right time for him to run for public office.

Kennedy has never held office but has inspired a small contingent of supporters drawn to his advocacy against public health mandates and the influence of money on decisions made by government and private corporations. Kennedy founded Children’s Health Defense, an organization that regularly spreads anti-vaccine misinformation, and he has promoted anti-vaccine conspiracy theories at campaign events.

His presidential bid began as a primary challenge to Biden in April 2023. He exited the Democratic contest last fall to run as an independent, saying he wanted to fight against the two-party system, which he said has failed to provide Americans with viable options for the presidency. His decision to challenge Biden has drawn criticism from Kennedy family members – a handful of them joined the president for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the White House last week.

As Kennedy pursues his independent presidential bid, he has been in dialogue with the Libertarian Party, dating to last year. He met again with party chair Angela McArdle in February, according to a source familiar with the meeting. Kennedy told CNN earlier this year that he was “very comfortable with most of the values of the Libertarian Party.”

While Democrats continue to insist that Kennedy would be a spoiler for Trump, it’s unclear which major-party candidate he’d pull more support from, even as polls show him receiving significant backing in key states. CNN polling released Friday from Michigan and Pennsylvania – two states Trump won in 2016 that Biden then flipped in 2020 – showed Kennedy hitting 16% in Pennsylvania in a hypothetical four-way matchup with Trump (40%), Biden (38%) and independent candidate Cornel West (4%), and taking 18% in Michigan in a similar face-off with Trump (40%), Biden (34%) and West (4%).

Both polls showed Kennedy winning a plurality of support from voters holding an unfavorable view of both Biden and Trump, despite large shares of that group also saying they don’t know enough about him to have an opinion.

Bernard Tamas, who has researched third parties in the US, said the spectacle around Kennedy’s vice presidential announcement may not do much to move the needle since Americans historically have shown little interest in running mates.

“Vice presidential candidates don’t tend to push elections very far, even for the major-party candidates. And for the minor-party candidates, where there’s already lacking of knowledge, it’s unlikely that they would have some sort of major impact,” said Tamas, who teaches at Valdosta State University in Georgia.

Kennedy’s running mate could, however, play a role in boosting fundraising as the campaign navigates the costly ballot qualification process and a general election campaign against Biden and Trump, each of whom dwarf the Kennedy campaign’s fundraising totals.

New FEC reports show the Kennedy campaign raised just $3.2 million in February, while spending about $2.9 million, and it ended the month with about $5.1 million in the bank. American Values 2024 spent $8.8 million in February, including $6.2 million on a TV ad that aired during the Super Bowl. Shanahan told The New York Times last month that she contributed approximately $4 million to help the PAC run the ad and assisted in coordinating production of the commercial.

Kennedy has denied prioritizing a potential running mate’s wealth when vetting his options.

“I would never choose a vice presidential candidate based on how much money they have,” Kennedy said in a NewsNation interview last week.

CNN’s Gregory Krieg contributed to this report.

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