RYE, N.H. — As Robert F. Kennedy Jr. tries to unseat President Joe Biden in the 2024 Democratic primaries, the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist is finding support from an unlikely source: Republicans.
Kennedy has sat down for an extended interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. He has hired Republicans for his campaign, including a sitting member of the New Hampshire legislature. His long shot bid to defeat an incumbent from his own party is a frequent topic of glee on conservative talk radio.
And on Wednesday night, Scott Brown, a former Republican senator from Massachusetts, hosted Kennedy for one of his “No BS” barbecues — making him the first non-Republican afforded that privilege.
“It’s an honor,” Brown said as he introduced Kennedy to an overflow crowd of some 500.
His invitation raised eyebrows in both parties.
“I have no idea why Scott Brown as a Republican would be hosting a Democrat,” said Steve Duprey, a former Republican National Committee member from New Hampshire. “Is it just an attempt to bolster Kennedy and hurt Biden? Who knows.”
The New Hampshire Democratic Party chair said that’s the obvious reason Republicans are supporting Kennedy, and that Kennedy is happy to take their help.
“In my many decades of experience with New Hampshire primaries, I’ve never seen a Democratic candidate chase after registered Republicans this hard,” Ray Buckley told HuffPost. “The truth is that RFK is anti-vax, pro-conspiracy theory, and this campaign is bankrolled by a Trump donor. None of that aligns with the Democratic Party. Seems like he’s running in the wrong primary.”
Brown, who hosted his political gatherings for GOP candidates in 2016 and now again in this election cycle, said people deserved a chance to hear Kennedy’s views.
“If somebody wants to speak to voters in New Hampshire, they should have a place to do it,” he told HuffPost, adding that he was not just trying to weaken Biden to make it easier for a Republican to beat him. “I have a relationship with the Kennedy family, obviously, going back to long before I was a U.S. senator … If he wants to come, I’m happy to have him.”
Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. appears at former Republican Sen. Scott Brown’s “No BS” barbecue campaign gathering in New Hampshire on Wednesday night.
Scott, though, opened up the question-and-answer part of Kennedy’s appearance by asking him if he would run as an independent if the Democratic National Committee “jammed” him by making it difficult for him to win delegates for the nomination. Such a move could hurt Biden in the general election by siphoning off Democratic votes.
“If they jam me, I’m going to look at every option,” Kennedy said, to applause.
Kennedy, who is 69, the son of an assassinated presidential candidate and the nephew of an assassinated president, saw a brief surge in the polls when he announced his candidacy this spring. Since then, though, his numbers have fallen dramatically, and he is now more popular with Republican voters than he is with Democrats.
Indeed, on a number of issues, Kennedy is far more in line with the Trump wing of the Republican Party than he is with the Democratic Party.
Kennedy has said he opposes U.S. support for Ukraine, which continues to fight Russia’s invasion that began in early 2022. That coincides with most supporters of Donald Trump, who after Vladimir Putin launched his attack on Ukraine, called the Russian dictator a “genius” for having done so.
Kennedy said in a recent interview that he supports a nationwide abortion ban — although he soon afterward released a statement saying that he did not.
And closest to the hearts of many “MAGA” Republicans, Kennedy has for decades been an opponent of childhood vaccines, and of late, has been a vocal critic of the COVID-19 vaccines. More recently, he claimed that the disease was engineered to be less lethal to Chinese and Jewish people.
His view on vaccines was one of the things that Karen McLaughlin, 52, said she liked about Kennedy. The two-time Trump voter drove an hour through the rain from Nashua to hear him in person. “He’s the only Democrat I’d consider,” she said as she waited in the line to be “wanded” by the Kennedy campaign’s private security.
“So far, I like what I hear,” said Mike Sears, who is 54 and also a two-time Trump voter, as he waited in the magnetometer line outside the farmhouse Brown uses for his political meet-and-greets.
The pro-Trump nature of much of the audience became clear when Kennedy began his remarks by pointing out all the things that Americans have in common, such as the desire for a good education and health care.
“Drain the swamp!” shouted out a voice from the front rows, repeating a favorite Trump slogan.
“We all want to drain the swamp,” Kennedy agreed.