Third-party hopeful Robert F. Kennedy’s selected running mate is young, progressive, and terrifying the Democratic Party.

Buttons for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. at a campaign rally at Legends Event Center in Phoenix, Arizona. December 29, 2023. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

RFK Jr. Names Nicole Shanahan as Running Mate for Presidential Bid,” Eliza Collins reported for the Wall Street Journal on March 26, 2024, noting that the “Bay Area lawyer and political novice was previously married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin.”

“Shanahan, Kennedy said, matched the list of attributes he was looking for in a running mate as someone who has worked to increase access to healthy, pesticide-free food, has an understanding of tech and AI, and is athletic,” Collins revealed of the pick. “He also praised their shared skepticism of government agencies and support for more aggressive border security and legal immigration.”

The unveiling of Nicole Shanahan was not met with delight from Democratic Party leadership. Party leaders were undoubtedly hoping Kennedy would choose someone with greater appeal to persuadable Republicans than disenchanted Democrats.

“Democrats have been far more nervous about Kennedy’s candidacy than Republicans, though both sides were quick to criticize the announcement,” as Collins reported for the WSJ. “The Democratic National Committee held a press call Tuesday with elected Democratic officials, including from battleground states, who accused Kennedy of helping Trump.”

In many ways, Ms. Shanahan is an ideal fit for Kennedy.

Though a political newcomer, Nicole Shanahan is already well known for her work in the fields of law, technology, and artificial intelligence. Shanahan has also been involved in various initiatives related to AI ethics and policy, particularly concerning issues such as bias and fairness in AI systems. Additionally, she has been advocating for reforms in intellectual property law and technology policy in recent years.

She is also extremely wealthy.

As much of Kennedy’s current campaign is focused on getting his name on the ballot in all 50 states, Shanahan’s deep pockets will undoubtedly come in very handy.

For Democratic Party analysts and lawyers hoping to prevent Kennedy’s name from appearing on the ballots, especially in swing states, Shanahan’s bankroll is probably less welcome.

The blow is particularly painful considering how much Nicole Shanahan helped Democratic Party fundraising efforts in previous election cycles, including Joe Biden’s campaign in 2020.

With Robert F. Kennedy’s pick for Vice President announced, all eyes have turned naturally to former President and current Republican Party presidential candidate Donald Trump.

While he has been dropping hints for months, Trump has yet to announce a running mate. His reticence on the subject has kicked off a blizzard of speculation from media outlets.

Could Trump pick Rubio as VP?” wondered Zac Anderson and David Jackson for USA TODAY on March 26, 2024, before cautioning that “There are constitutional hurdles to an all Florida ticket.”

“Donald Trump‘s vice presidential list is ever growing,” Anderson and Jackson warned. “But at least one prominent candidate has a special challenge: Marco Rubio, a senator from Trump‘s own home state of Florida.”

“The U.S. Constitution and the rules of the Electoral College discourage running mates from the same state,” they reminded readers. “That’s actually why Dick Cheney changed his residency from Texas back to Wyoming in 2000 as George W. Bush made him the vice-presidential nominee.”

“Trump aides said he does not have a VP shortlist − he has a long list that is getting longer by the week,” the USA TODAY writers revealed. “They also said he’s not close to making a final announcement and may not do so before the opening of the Republican National Convention on July 15.”

Meanwhile, incumbent President Joe Biden is having his own VP struggles. While the selection of his running mate isn’t in doubt, Biden has grown increasingly out of step with Vice President Kamala Harris in recent weeks.

Of particular threat to the Biden-Harris simpatico is the subject of Israel.

Harris finds herself, often, a half step further than Biden on Israel,” admitted Eugene Daniels, Alexander Ward, and Jonathan Lemire for POLITICO on March 26, 2024, noting that, “The administration says there’s no daylight between her and the president’s Israel stances.”

Whatever the official White House line, the Vice President has often seemed more than a half step from Biden — and most Democratic Party voters — on the subject of the Israel/Hamas conflict.

“When Vice President Kamala Harris sat down for a television interview over the weekend, she took a step no other administration official had done so far: She did not rule out ‘consequences’ for Israel if it launched a full-scale invasion of Rafah in its war against Hamas,” wrote Daniels, Ward, and Lemire in wonderment.

“It was the latest in a series of blunt remarks from Harris criticizing Israel’s military campaign,” they added. “And she has consistently gone further than President Joe Biden by at least half a step.”

“Harris’ comments have come against the backdrop of two fraying relationships: the one shared by the U.S. and Israel and the one the president has with his base of supporters angry over the conduct of the war,” they fretted. “Allies and Democratic operatives believe that Harris’ more outward agitation with Israeli leadership can resonate with a domestic audience eager to see a change of direction from the administration.”

It’s a delicate balancing act at a time when President Biden, like Robert F. Kennedy and Donald Trump, ought to be shoring up existing support and building a winning coalition.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)