Kellyanne Conway said it’s “very likely” that progressive scholar Cornel West, who recently announced his third-party presidential campaign, poses more of a threat to President Biden’s reelection prospects than does Democratic candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
In an interview on Fox News, the former senior counselor to then-President Trump laid out a case that West’s candidacy with the progressive People’s Party could tank Biden’s chances in the general election, comparing it to the doomed reelection bids of former Presidents Carter and George H.W. Bush.
Conway was asked to respond to a tweet from The Cook Report’s Amy Walter who responded to West’s announcement video on Twitter, writing, “Isn’t this candidacy more threatening to Biden in general election (esp. w/ young & voters of color) than RFK Jr in the primary?”
“The answer to that is yes. It’s very likely,” Conway said in response to Walter’s question. ”Amy Walter is onto something, and I’ll tell you why: Even if you don’t become president, you, as a third-party candidate spoiler, can decide who is the president.”
She gave the example of the presidential election of 1992, when Ross Perot ran as an independent on a platform further to the right ideologically than Bush’s platform. Perot ultimately won nearly 19 percent of the popular vote – most of which could be reasonably assumed to have gone to Bush over Democratic candidate Bill Clinton at the time.
“It’s important also, what Amy Walter is pointing out, is that: if you play to win and you’re Cornel West, and you are still not satisfied with the trajectory of the Democratic Party being progressive enough for you under a Biden-Harris administration,” she said, “then you’re going to run to the left of them.”
Conway also argued that any serious candidate competing for an overlapping share of voters with the president could cause serious damage to his favorability in the general election. She noted how Sen. Ted Kennedy refused to drop out of the race until the Democratic convention, when he challenged Carter in 1980, despite losing in a majority of states in the primaries.
“Carter came out of that very damaged, and, as an incumbent president, lost to Ronald Reagan, so we do have some precedent there, that Cornel West can point to as to what he’s doing.
She noted West shares some similarities with Trump in his ability to tap into what an untapped section of the electorate truly wants to hear.
“He’s going to make a play for people who feel forgotten, who feel abandoned by this Democratic Party, who feel like nobody’s listening to them and including them. It’s part of how Trump won in 2016, but I think he could do it from the left,” Conway said, later adding, “I know him. He’s a super smart guy. He’s very committed to the principles and policies that he thinks more Americans want to hear.”
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