Kennedy family will endorse Biden at Philadelphia event


Several Kennedy family members plan to endorse President Biden for reelection at a campaign event in Philadelphia on Thursday, saying that Biden reflects the values and “moral leadership” of their clan’s most celebrated members, in a move intended in part to counter the independent campaign of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

More than a dozen Kennedys — including siblings of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — will be on hand during Biden’s remarks. The event comes at the end of the president’s three-day sprint through the battleground state of Pennsylvania, where he has tried to paint himself as a champion of the American middle class in the Kennedy mold.

The endorsement from about a dozen members of America’s most famous political family is intended to showcase Biden as the figurative torchbearer of the legacy of President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963, and of Robert F. Kennedy, who was shot down as he sought the presidency in 1968. It is an unusually personal rebuke to Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is portraying himself as the true heir to the Kennedy tradition, and reflects the Biden campaign’s concern that he could siphon at least a small number of votes from the president.

“A vote for Joe Biden is a vote to save our democracy and our decency,” Kerry Kennedy, the elder Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter and the current candidate’s sister, plans to say, according to remarks released by the campaign. “It is a vote for what my father called, in his own presidential announcement in 1968 … ‘our right to the moral leadership of this planet.’”

Kerry Kennedy also plans to stress that Biden stands for the core values of her father and her family: “Daddy stood for equal justice, human rights, and freedom from want and fear. Just as President Biden does today.”

It is not clear if any of the Kennedys will mention their family member’s candidacy, and the endorsement is in line with the clan’s long, if informal, support of Biden. On St. Patrick’s Day, Kerry Kennedy posted a picture on X, formerly Twitter, showing Biden surrounded by a sea of Kennedys.

Biden was a senior in high school when John F. Kennedy became president, and he sometimes traces his interest in politics to the former president.

John F. Kennedy was the nation’s first Irish Catholic president; Biden is the second. And both contended with questions about how their faith would inform their role as commander in chief. Kennedy was asked whether he felt he would answer to the pope, while Biden faced questions about where his political views veered away from Catholic doctrine, particularly on abortion.

Biden also had a long friendship with the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), John F. Kennedy’s younger brother. The two served together for decades in the Senate, including on the high-profile Judiciary Committee. Years later, as Biden sought the presidency in 2020, he modeled his effort to eradicate cancer on President Kennedy’s push to put Americans on the moon.

Biden’s campaign hopes Thursday’s endorsement gives the president a boost in Pennsylvania — a state he sorely needs to win in November — and beyond.

The candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has thrown an unexpected twist into this year’s presidential battle. He is the son and namesake of a legendary figure in the Democratic Party, one who spoke passionately about injustice, was brother to an idealized president and was martyred by an assassin’s bullet.

His ultimate effect on the presidential race remains unclear, including whether he will draw more votes from Biden or former president Donald Trump, but his candidacy makes many Biden supporters nervous. He has embraced unorthodox and even conspiratorial ideas — for example, questioning the efficacy of vaccines and the role of those involved in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol — but he seems to draw some support from older Democrats nostalgic about the Kennedy era.

In addition, some Democrats have a deep-seated fear of third-party campaigns. Some in the party believe that Green Party candidate Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000, and that Green Party candidate Jill Stein cost Hillary Clinton the White House in 2016. This year, Biden faces not only Kennedy and Stein, but also Cornel West, a scholar and activist.

The Kennedys, however, do not appear likely to focus on the dissenting member of their family Thursday, but instead will aim their fire at Trump, who Kerry Kennedy plans to say is “attacking the most basic rights and freedoms that are core to who we are as Americans.”

“I can only imagine how Donald Trump’s outrageous lies and behavior would have horrified my father, Robert F. Kennedy, who proudly served as attorney general of the United States and honored his pledge to uphold the law and protect the country,” she will say, according to the prepared remarks.

Among those expected to attend Thursday’s event are Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland; Rory Kennedy, a documentary filmmaker; and former congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Mass.) — all children of the elder Robert F. Kennedy and siblings of the current candidate. Another former congressman, Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), also plans to be there.

Following the endorsement, Biden and members of the Kennedy family will join local supporters and volunteers at an organizing event. Biden will deliver remarks, and then members of the Kennedy family will knock on doors and call voters.

[colabot2]

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