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Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during a campaign event to announce his pick for a running mate at the Henry J. Kaiser Event Center in Oakland, Calif. on March 26.JOSH EDELSON/Getty Images

It’s too bad that during independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s naming of his vice-presidential running mate that no one confronted him about what he said about third party candidates during the 2000 election.

That was the year RFK Jr. was all over the media giving warnings to Green Party candidate Ralph Nader about the danger inherent in such a candidacy. “Ralph Nader is my friend,” he told CNN, “but his candidacy, I think, poses a huge threat to the environment in this country, and the reason for that, of course, is he could drain off votes in certain key states that would otherwise go to Al Gore.” And, he added, this could result in the election of George W. Bush.

That, of course, is what happened. Florida decided the race, and the consumer advocate Mr. Nader took away enough votes from the Democrat, Mr. Gore, to prevent him from winning that state and becoming president. Instead the world got Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney. Because of one man’s ego, history dramatically changed.

Now we’re looking at the possibility of a repeat as RFK Jr. does exactly what he told Mr. Nader not to do. It’s hypocrisy on stilts.

Polling indicates that support for the black sheep of the Kennedy family is stronger than for any third party or independent candidate since Ross Perot in 1992. It looks like a tight race and even if he takes just a point or two away from the Biden column, it could be enough to hand the Oval Office back to Mr. Trump.

Ralph Nader doesn’t think so. On the line from Washington, he recalled the admonition and chuckled about it. No, he is not going to tell Mr. Kennedy to back off from his independent bid, he said, because he doesn’t think it will hurt Mr. Biden.

What’s attracting attention is Mr. Kennedy’s anti-vaccine stance and strong pro-Israel positions as opposed to his anti-corporation proposals, and he will therefore get possibly more Trump votes.

But don’t tell that to Democrats. They were in near-panic mode as Mr. Kennedy, 70, announced Tuesday that his running mate would be 38-year-old Nicole Shanahan, a wealthy tech entrepreneur from California.

In a media call the same day by the Democratic National Committee, several party members lined up against Mr. Kennedy. Congressman Robert Garcia led the charge, calling him “a tin foil hat conspiracy theorist.”

The Biden campaign is so worried about Mr. Kennedy that they have a team of staffers and consultants devoted exclusively to condemning him. They see him as a stalking horse for Mr. Trump, citing as an example the fact that mega-donor businessman Tim Mellon has given $15-million to Mr. Trump’s campaign but more than that, $20-million, to the Kennedy campaign.

The entire Kennedy clan opposes RFK Jr.’s bid. No less than 50 family members showed up for a photo with President Joe Biden on St. Patrick’s Day. But it doesn’t stop Mr. Kennedy from trying to trade off the legendary family name.

It’s not just that he’s challenging an incumbent Democratic President. Nothing new there. Bobby Kennedy did that against Lyndon Johnson in 1968. Teddy Kennedy did that against Jimmy Carter in 1980. But, as Mr. Garcia calls its, there’s the tinfoil hat stuff. RFK Jr. believes chemicals in water could be making children gay or transgender. On mass shootings, he says don’t blame guns so much – it’s antidepressants such as Prozac marketed by the pharmaceutical industry that are responsible. He’s waged a crusade against vaccines. He thinks it was a second gunman who assassinated his father Bobby in 1968.

Because of his rash of conspiratorial ideas, the Trump campaign was initially concerned he might take more support away from Republicans than Democrats. But they are now convinced he’ll help them.

Mr. Kennedy faces the tough challenge of getting on state ballots. He needs money for that and Ms. Shanahan, who was previously married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, will lend a helping hand. She bankrolled a Super Bowl ad for him, contributing $4-million.

The country is so unenthused about a rematch between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump that there is room for Mr. Kennedy to grow his support.

Mr. Nader noted that support for third party candidates always narrows as election day nears. Indeed, in the 2000 campaign, his support shrunk to just 2.74 per cent of the vote. But that was all it took for Al Gore to lose.

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