Meet the voters who might ditch Biden and Trump for RFK Jr.: From the Politics Desk

Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, national political reporter Ben Kamisar breaks down our latest focus group of a key bloc of Georgia voters. Plus, chief political analyst Chuck Todd explores who has more to lose at Thursday’s debate.

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Why fed-up Georgia voters are looking beyond Biden and Trump

By Ben Kamisar

It’s not just a protest vote.

That’s one thing a group of Georgia voters considering third-party presidential candidates wanted to make clear during an NBC News Deciders Focus Group this week, produced in collaboration with Engagious, Syracuse University and Sago.

Seven out of the 10 voters in the battleground state who participated, all of whom voted for either Donald Trump or Joe Biden in 2020, are currently planning to back independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr., while two support professor Cornel West and one backs Libertarian Chase Oliver.

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But as Margaret Talev, one of our partners in this project, told me: While we’ve heard from RFK Jr.-curious voters before, this group went further.

“We’ve been asking our focus group participants about RFK each month, and most until now have seen him as an alternative to Biden or Trump or know the Kennedy name, but admit they don’t know much about his record or platform. The Georgia voters seemed different,” Talev said. “They indicated they’re learning details about his positions from vaccines to foreign policy and having opportunities to listen to or see more of him.”

These voters didn’t have much nice to say about Biden or Trump. Biden’s age appears to be a huge sticking point with them, as is a concern that he hasn’t govern the way he said he would as a candidate (heard from both the left and the right).

And for Trump, it’s his personality, as well as his conduct around the 2020 election — the attack on the U.S. Capitol and his repeated false claims that he won, particularly in Georgia.

But the group praised Kennedy, not just for being an outsider, but for his legal career, environmentalism and rhetoric about taking on entrenched powers. And even among those not happy with his stance on vaccines, they still found reasons to support him.

“So many people are voting against the other one, they’re voting for the lesser of two evils and I just don’t want to be that person,” said Sherri D., a 50-year-old from Roswell who backed Trump in 2020 but is leaning toward Kennedy now.

“I want to actually research and learn and I want to vote for the person, in my conscience, I truly want to win, even if they don’t have a chance or even if people think that they don’t have a chance,” she added.

Read more from our latest voter focus group →

Who has the most to lose in tomorrow’s debate?

By Chuck Todd

The toughest part in trying to gauge the potential impact of the first presidential debate is figuring out which candidate needs this more. A month ago, the answer was obvious: Biden. His team wouldn’t have pushed to hold an earlier debate if it hadn’t come to the conclusion that it needed to do something to shake up this race before the fall.

But one conviction on 34 counts later and it’s not nearly as clear now which candidate needs this debate more. Why does that matter? Because the less a debate matters in the moment to a candidate, the more risk-averse said candidate will become in the debate itself.

Based on my conversations with smart folks on both sides of the aisle, both campaigns feel a quiet confidence about their standing going into the summer and this debate. That wasn’t the case with Biden world just a month ago.

The small but noticeable shift toward Biden in various polls has given his campaign its first evidence that Trump’s legal problems might be affecting his vote share. Toss in the recent positive data indicating a drop in violent crime across the country, as well as this durable economy, and one can see why Team Biden is as optimistic about winning re-election today as it has been in over a year.

But even as Biden has strengthened, so, too, has Trump. While he has taken a very small (and potentially significant) hit in the polls post-conviction, his massive fundraising haul in the last month has allowed him to level the spending playing field with Biden much earlier than the campaign had expected.

Both camps would love nothing more than for the post-debate conversation to be about the other candidate. Team Trump would love nothing more than for Biden’s age to become the dominant conversation, while Team Biden would love nothing more than for Trump’s erratic behavior to be the post-debate focal point.

Read more from Chuck →

That’s all from the Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at

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