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Democratic leaders push back against ‘misguided’ attacks from Robert Kennedy Jr.

Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has made denouncing his own party a centerpiece of his campaign, attacking leaders with a mix of baseless claims of election rigging and genuine complaints about disadvantages. he faces in the nomination process.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison decided Tuesday that the party needed to respond.

“(It) is clear that there are serious misunderstandings about the Democratic nomination process that are important to correct,” Harrison wrote in the letter to the Kennedy campaign obtained by The Post. “I hope that a meeting with our delegate selection leadership team will prevent voters in the future from receiving misinformation that could sow confusion about the fairness of the Democratic nominating process.”

Kennedy and his campaign manager, former Ohio Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich, have claimed in recent days that Georgia officials were plotting to remove Kennedy from that state’s ballot to campaign in New Hampshire; that Democrats are talking about making Kennedy pay for the cost of the primaries; and that party rules were changed to allow party supporters to override the will of voters in the first round of the convention.

These claims are either inaccurate or unfounded. Even after reading Harrison’s letter refuting them, Kucinich continued to argue that they might still be true in the future or that they were true in a different way than initially described. He said he doesn’t trust the word of party leaders since the DNC works closely with President Biden’s re-election campaign.

“Once the party violates its impartiality, nothing it says is credible,” Kucinich said.

The refusal of both parties to agree on the facts that govern the nomination process, even in the face of clearly written rules, risks deepening divisions. Kennedy and his team have begun asserting in recent months that party leaders will never allow him to win the nomination, even if he beats Biden at the polls, which current polls show is unlikely. In August, he polled between 7 and 17 percent of Democratic primary voters nationwide in public polls, about 50 points or more behind Biden.

“I think the American people will always appreciate candidates who have the courage and the nerve to believe they can win a rigged game,” Kucinich said.

Kennedy accused his party of “altering the process in ways that make it almost impossible for democracy to function” and of “depriving Democratic voters of the right to choose who becomes the Democratic nominee.”

His concern centers on the dual role the DNC plays, both as an integral part of Biden’s campaign effort and as the arbiter of a nomination process that could result in Biden’s defeat in the agreement. Party leaders have refused to schedule primary debates with candidates like Kennedy because Biden is an incumbent running for re-election, following precedent that both parties have used for decades.

But Kennedy’s attacks also echo the broader focus of his campaign, which has focused on sometimes true, sometimes false and often unproven claims that powerful people secretly lie about issues of great importance. Kennedy presented himself as a truth teller who diligently strives to correct himself if he makes a mistake.

Kennedy’s argument against the party begins with the fact that the DNC will not award him delegates won in contests that take place outside of the approved Democratic nominating schedule, an enforcement mechanism that both major political parties have used for years to varying degrees.

During this cycle, Democratic leaders, led by Biden, asked the state parties of Iowa and New Hampshire to oppose state laws requiring them to host the first caucus and primary, respectively. from the country. Biden, who performed poorly in both states in 2020, has said he wants to elevate more ethnically diverse states like Nevada and South Carolina.

Even though delegate selection plans have not yet been finalized, Iowa and New Hampshire appear headed for early contests that do not directly produce Democratic convention delegates. Similarly, Republican officials in Nevada said they would not award delegates based on the results of state-run primaries, but would instead hold party-run caucuses.

Democratic candidates who campaign in states that fail to meet the approved schedule will “lose” that state’s delegates, according to party rules that were revised and adopted in 2022. Harrison, as the party’s national chairman, is also empowered to take additional “appropriate measures”. to enforce these rules.

After these rules were adopted, Kennedy announced his Democratic campaign for president and pledged to campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire even if they held unauthorized elections. He framed the party’s decision to reorganize candidate states as an attack on voters and an attempt to support Biden.

“Those are really the only states that really require you to do retail politics,” Kennedy said in an interview last week with Forbes.

Both Kennedy and Kucinich have made additional claims that are not based in fact.

“They’re trying to change things so that if I campaign in New Hampshire, none of the votes cast for me in Georgia count, and that’s important because it’s hard to win the nomination without Georgia,” he said. he told Forbes.

This claim is based on a typo in an earlier version of Georgia’s state delegate selection rules. The original plan said Georgia Democrats would grant ballot access to campaigns that meet the national party’s “Rule 12.K” requirements. Rule 12 concerns the timing of applications, but it does not have a subsection K.

Georgia officials say the original draft should have referenced “Rule 13.K,” which has nothing to do with timing but outlines the basic requirements of a candidate for office, including eligibility to the presidency under the U.S. Constitution. This error has since been corrected in the online project.

“The RFK Jr. campaign’s interpretation of the Georgia Democrats’ delegate selection plan is not accurate,” said Ellie Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the state party. “The party does not intend to exclude any candidate from the ballot because of their campaign activities in other states.”

Kucinich said he tried to seek clarification from the state party in August and never received a response. But even after Harrison addressed the issue in Tuesday’s letter, Kucinich said he didn’t accept it because Georgia’s rules weren’t finalized. “We’ll see. As far as I’m concerned, it’s an open question,” he said.

Kennedy also falsely claimed that he could lose the nomination even if he won an overwhelming share of the party’s state primaries, because party leaders would override the will of voters at the convention on the first ballot.

“If you add up all the superdelegates that they control and all the automatic delegates that just go to the party and go to the president, I would have to win almost 80 percent of all the states to beat President Biden,” Kennedy said. in the Forbes interview.

This calculation is based on Kucinich’s flawed analysis of party rules. After the 2016 election, Democratic reforms removed the power of unrelated party officials, alternately called “super” or “automatic” delegates, to vote in the first round if the result was contested.

But Kucinich falsely claims that something has changed since then.

“Unfortunately, it appears that the DNC has created a class of pledged delegates, called Party Leaders and Elected Officials (PLEOs), who are essentially the same as superdelegates, because of the control the party has over elected officials,” said Kucinich. in a press release last week.

PLEOs have actually existed within Democratic Party rules for decades, as a subgroup of the delegate class. Candidates are able to select their own PLEO delegates based on the results of state competitions, and they are considered pledged delegates to the convention, according to the rules, required to “in good conscience reflect the feelings of those who elected them.” »

Larry Cohen, an ally of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who served as vice chairman of the party’s reform effort after the 2016 election, said in a statement that nothing had changed to erode reforms intended to prevent party leaders from potentially overriding the will of voters in the first round of voting at the convention.

“There have been no changes to the party reforms adopted by the DNC in 2020, as required to implement Resolution 1 of the 2020 convention,” said Cohen, chairman of the board of directors of the DNC. Our Revolution, a group founded by Sanders. “Again, so-called “superdelegates” cannot impact the nomination of a presidential candidate on the first – and likely only – ballot. All other delegates are chosen by candidates in proportion to their vote in any primary, provided they meet the threshold of 15 percent of voters.

Kucinich changed his argument Tuesday after receiving Harrison’s letter rebutting it, saying he was concerned that party leaders and elected officials would refuse to accept the spots promised to Kennedy if he won the primaries, potentially leaving gaps empty seats at the convention. There is little historical precedent for such an outcome, as local officials tend to want to support candidates supported by their constituents.

Disputes over the reality of the nomination process between Kennedy and the DNC do not end there. “They’re talking about making me and Marianne Williamson pay for the primaries because they consider it a wasteful process,” Kennedy said during a recent appearance on Fox News. His campaign has provided no evidence of such conversations.

Kucinich instead pointed to states that have party-run contests, like Hawaii and Missouri, where state parties continue to raise money to finance the process. He said he doubted they would be able to fund those contests, which could lead to requests for Kennedy’s help in funding them, another hypothesis. Harrison said that wouldn’t happen.

“The DNC has not and will not make such a request,” Harrison wrote in his letter.

Kucinich accused the DNC Tuesday morning of attempting a “hidden ball trick” by not making public a public meeting of the Rules and Bylaws Committee this Thursday. “The DNC wants to continue without public and media attention,” he said in a statement. The DNC sent a notice of media accreditation for the event on Monday.

Kucinich requested in a recent letter to Harrison that Kennedy’s campaign be allowed to address Thursday’s meeting of the Rules Committee, after brief remarks to the same group earlier this year by Julie Chavez Rodriguez, campaign manager of Biden.

Harrison did not extend an invitation to the Rules Committee.

“As I hope you agree, a strong Democratic Party benefits all Americans in the general election,” Harrison wrote to Kucinich on Tuesday.


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