Democrats sound alarm on RFK Jr. and new running mate, Shanahan

"All he can do is take away votes from President Biden," one Democrat said.

March 27, 2024, 3:34 PM

Democrats are leaving no room for doubt on how they view former party colleague turned independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his freshly minted vice presidential pick, deep-pocketed lawyer Nicole Shanahan: the pair are a danger to voters and present as a "spoiler" ticket, destined to siphon votes from President Joe Biden and deliver the White House to former President Donald Trump.

In a Democratic National Committee press call on Tuesday night, several party surrogates called Kennedy's presidential bid "disgusting" and a ploy to reelect Trump.

"All he can do is take away votes from President Biden and make it easier for Donald Trump to win. And we simply can't afford to let that happen," said Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Austin Davis.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., right, and his vice presidential pick Nicole Shanahan wave during a campaign event to announce his pick for running mate, March 26, 2024, in Oakland, Calif.
Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The Democratic National Committee

Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow said the Kennedy ticket is "disgusting and an abuse of our democracy."

"There is absolutely no path for Kennedy to become president and he knows that," McMurrow said. "That is why he picked a VP who can fund -- who can buy his way onto the ballot in a number of state," McMurrow said. "First of all, that's disgusting and an abuse of our democracy. Second, that means that him being in the race means that there is a greater likelihood that Donald Trump will become president again."

Kennedy is working to gain access to each state's ballot, a painstaking and expensive process that requires dispatching volunteers to gather thousands of signatures. Initial news of Kennedy's consideration of Shanahan as his running mate prompted speculation that he simply wanted to tap her financial resources to help him cover the high cost of ballot access in each state.

Shanahan, who has donated millions of dollars to a pro-Kennedy Super PAC, partly bankrolled half of the $7 million used to create an ad that ran during this year's Super Bowl and displeased several members of Kennedy's extended family for its riffing on a John F. Kennedy Jr. campaign ad.

Several high-profile Democrats on the call pointed to praise of Kennedy's ticket from Republican hard-liners as justifications to their concerns -- one of the freshest examples as recent Wednesday morning, with Trump himself saying on his social media platform that Kennedy's candidacy is "great for MAGA."

"I love that he is running!" Trump wrote.

The DNC has sharpened its messaging significantly, assembling a team to combat third-party and independent challengers which includes veteran strategist and firebrand Lis Smith -- with much of that ammo pointed directly at Kennedy, and now, Shanahan.

This tactic to combat Kennedy and other potential challenges by the official arm of the Democratic party is a marked change from past cycles, when concerns about third-party challengers such as Green Party's Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson were met with much less public consternation.

The DNC also tapped Smith's former deputy, Matt Corridoni, to be the spokesperson for the effort to thwart third-party and independent challengers.

"We're facing an unprecedented election and we know the GOP is already working to prop up third-party candidates like Robert Kennedy Jr. to make them stalking horses for Donald Trump," Corridoni said in a statement to ABC News earlier this month. "With so much on the line, we're not taking anything for granted. We're going to make sure voters are educated and we're going to make sure all candidates are playing by the rules."

ABC News' Will McDuffie contributed to this story.

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