RFK Team In Wyoming, Needs 3,500 More Signatures To Get Him On The Ballot

Independent third-party presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign is crossing Wyoming this week, gathering signatures to get him on the state’s presidential ballot.

Clair McFarland

March 19, 20246 min read

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. hosts a fireside chat with rapper and producer Eric B. at The Gentleman's Factory on Feb. 18, 2024, in New York City.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. hosts a fireside chat with rapper and producer Eric B. at The Gentleman's Factory on Feb. 18, 2024, in New York City. (Getty Images)

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign for U.S. president is crossing Wyoming this week, trying to amass enough signatures to get his name on the state’s general election ballot.

The independent candidate’s volunteers gathered signatures at Central Wyoming College in Riverton all day Monday, then headed to Sheridan College on Tuesday.

They’re gathering at Casper College on Wednesday, Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne on Thursday, and on Friday, they’re headed to the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

They need 3,891 signatures on their approved petition form to get Kennedy onto the state’s ballot.

They’ve got about 300, state petition organizer Jake Dulling told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

Wearing “lots of sunscreen” in the week’s springlike weather, Dulling and the local volunteers who met up with him Monday stayed on campus in Riverton for more than six hours, he said.

Then they headed to the Western and ranch gear store Murdoch’s, where people were surprisingly receptive, said Dulling, 32, who moved from Maryland to Wyoming seven years ago and teaches skiing in Jackson.

“The message right now is just to get a different name on the ballot other than the usual suspects,” he said. “I think people are kind of tired of just having the two options. Neither are good right now or that great.”

Former President Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee in this year’s election, taking on presumptive Democratic nominee President Joe Biden.

Dulling said he expects Kennedy to peel off a proportion of Trump supporters in Wyoming. He wasn’t sure about where Biden supporters will fall, saying he doesn’t rationalize Biden voters’ motives as well.

Throughout his campaign, Kennedy has railed against vaccine mandates, social media and government censorship, and politicians’ dependence on bureaucratic agencies. He’s also voiced environmentalist and pro-choice stances.

Third Party

While the energy might be pulsing on the state’s college campuses this week, Kennedy still has a steep climb if he wants to break through the party polarization that has been intensifying in the United States for at least 40 years, Dr. Andrew Garner, UW political science professor, told Cowboy State Daily.

Kennedy is unlikely to win Wyoming or the presidency, said Garner, adding that’s through no fault of the eclectic candidate’s own making.

Party identification is the No. 1 predictor of how people vote, and the connection has grown stronger over the past four decades, Garner said. Though the numbers fluctuate from cycle to cycle, roughly 90%-95% of Republicans will vote for their party nominee. Roughly 90%-95% of Democrats will do the same.

Both behavioral and institutional trends fuel this loyalty.

Love To Hate Y’all

In the past three decades, people went from simply liking their party and liking its platform to focusing more on their resentment and distrust of the other party. That accelerated in the early 2000s and the 2010s, Garner said.

“People dislike the other side more than they like their own party, and that fear, hatred, disgust is what’s driving their voting behavior and making them less likely to even consider the other side,” Garner said. “If you hate the other side, you’re not going to be very open to voting for them.”

Showing Up Early

Primary elections also drive two-party polarization, he said. They tend to have lower turnout than general elections — and they tend to attract the most adamant political enthusiasts — with the most party-loyalist ideals.

“They want to hear that this candidate is going to go and fight,” he said. “More primary voters want to hear that kind of rhetoric.”

That creates a dynamic, vicious circle, Garner added.

Breaking Through That Guild

The media is another institution that magnifies extreme voices while overlooking moderate ones, said Garner.

And that can limit third-party candidates, whose hopes of election center around the moderately-engaged voters: those who are neither watching Fox News or CNN every night like the political junkies, or ignoring political news entirely to watch TikTok; but who would linger on the news for a few minutes while flipping through to entertainment.

Third-party candidates have to break through to that half-engaged group to “have any chance at all,” said Garner.

And it takes a respectable amount of media coverage to bust through the evening’s other distractions, he added.

Which Side Will Melt?

Garner said he’s not sure if Kennedy will peel off more Biden voters or more Trump voters.

He’d be surprised if Kennedy gets a significant portion of either group, he added, again crediting Americans’ galvanizing party loyalty.

Political identification is the strongest identity affiliation in an American’s life after religion, said Garner, adding that he’s pessimistic about any third-party candidate bridging the divide.

UW is scheduled to conduct a political poll this summer that may gauge Wyomingites’ attitudes toward Kennedy, Garner said. But even the poll may inflate their tendency to vote for them, because party identification grows even stronger as a general election draws closer.

The MAGA hats come out. The Dark Brandon memes come out. And the fiery speeches by partisan nominees will follow people all the way to the ballot buffer zone, he said.

One Critique Though

Though he is pessimistic about uniting Americans across political chasms, Garner did furnish one bit of advice for mainstream media: feature people who are clinging to data instead of wishful thinking.

“(They feature) the Donald Trump, the pro-Trump pundits who say Trump is going to win in a landslide; and the Biden pundits who say Biden is going to win in a landslide,” he said. “We don’t know who is going to win.

“I wish more people who commented to the media had an appropriate sense of uncertainty about what we know and what we don’t know.”

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter