Kennedys and Gosars: A Tale of Political Lineage

Kennedys and Gosars: A Tale of Political Lineage

Upon receiving news that members of the Kennedys dynasty would be gracing President Biden’s campaign gathering on Thursday, my immediate thoughts turned to another notable American family: the Gosars. It struck me how both these families, with their enduring legacies and political prominence, represent distinct facets of the American political landscape.

Gosars: A Less Familiar Lineage

You might be less acquainted with the Gosar lineage, if you’re acquainted at all. Their influence on American politics is comparably less substantial than the Kennedys, consisting of just one individual who secured a seat in the U.S. House. That individual is Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), who managed to retain his position despite six of his nine siblings endorsing his opponent in 2018.

Gosar’s Electoral Triumph

On Election Day, the Democrats achieved a sweeping victory, reclaiming a majority in the House. However, Gosar’s seat remained unaffected. He secured victory by a considerable margin of more than 2-to-1.

Kennedys’ Influence on American Politics

So, to sum up: In a contest where perhaps the sole noteworthy aspect regarding Paul A. Gosar was his family’s staunch opposition to his candidacy, Gosar still emerged triumphant in a challenging electoral climate for his party. And are we to presume that a contingent of Kennedys endorsing Biden will solidify support for the incumbent despite the presence of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the ballot?

Legacy of John F. Kennedy

It is undeniable that John F. Kennedy, RFK Jr.’s uncle, is revered as one of the most esteemed presidents in American history. Last year, Gallup reported that 90% of Americans regarded his presidency favorably, including 90% of Republicans. This approval rating exceeded that of any other president by 20 points, including Ronald Reagan.

John F. Kennedy’s legacy as a beloved president surpasses even Ronald Reagan’s esteemed reputation. According to WSJ Print Subscription.

Generational Perspectives

As anticipated, older Americans tended to view Kennedy’s presidency more favorably. Individuals aged 55 and above approved of Kennedy’s presidency by an 88-point margin, while those under 35 did so by a 76-point margin. However, even a 55-year-old today wouldn’t have been eligible to vote for Kennedy during his presidency. They were not yet born at that time.

Youthful Influence and Historical Voting Patterns

The youngest Americans eligible to vote for Kennedy are now at least 84 years old. Only around 2% of Americans fall into this age bracket. Moreover, many of them probably did not vote for him anyway. The American National Election Study from 1960 revealed that a quarter of those aged 25-34 in 1960 abstained from voting, and among younger voters, 40% refrained from voting. Of those who did vote, just under half cast their ballot for Richard M. Nixon.

RFK Jr.’s Campaign and the Power of Nostalgia

The underlying premise of endorsing Biden appears to be that some portion of RFK Jr.’s support stems from the positive connotations associated with his surname. A super PAC supporting Kennedy seemed to bank on this notion, airing an advertisement during the Super Bowl that directly referenced John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign to promote his nephew’s candidacy this year. (RFK Jr. initially endorsed and then distanced himself from the ad; one of the major contributors to the PAC was Nicole Shanahan, now Kennedy’s running mate.)

Current Support for RFK Jr.

If nostalgia is indeed bolstering Kennedys campaign, it’s not proving to be particularly effective. A recent YouGov survey, commissioned by the Economist, indicated that a mere 3% of Americans favored Kennedy’s bid. There was no notable divergence in support based on age.

Strategic Implications for Biden

Moreover, apart from dwindling 1960 Kennedy supporters, that election provides another pertinent lesson. It was an exceedingly close contest, where slender margins in certain states likely determined the outcome. Hence, it’s strategically advantageous for Biden to share the stage with a contingent of Kennedys: by preventing a handful of votes from being swayed by the Kennedy name towards RFK Jr., he might secure crucial votes in battleground states like Wisconsin, Arizona, or Michigan.

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