Will Dem Rep. Joseph Kennedy Fall For The State Of The Union Response Curse?

Congressman Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), a potential rising star in the Democratic Party and member of the infamous Kennedy Political Family, will get a huge platform when he delivers the response to President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Some say Rep. Kennedy, whose father was also a Massachusetts Congressman, might run for president in 2020.

He is one of several Massachusetts Democrats who have been floated as potential 2020 candidates – joining Senator Elizabeth Warren, former Governor Deval Patrick, 2004 nominee John Kerry, and Congressman Seth Moulton.


However, there is a “SOTU Response Curse,” in which both Democrats and Republicans who gave a SOTU lost a presidential election.

Three Democrats – Jim Webb (2007), Tim Kaine (2006), and Dick Gephardt (2002) – gave SOTU response speeches to President George W. Bush.

Webb ran for president in 2016 and dropped out early after failing to get 1 percent in the polls. Kaine was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016 and lost to the Trump/Pence Republican ticket. Gephardt ran for president in 2004 but dropped out after the Iowa caucuses.

Three Republicans – Bobby Jindal (2009), Paul Ryan (2011), and Marco Rubio (2013) gave SOTU response speeches to President Obama.

Jindal ran in 2016 and dropped out before the Iowa Caucuses after failing to reach 1 percent consistently in the polls. Rubio ran in 2016 and only won a single state: Minnesota. He dropped out after losing his home state of Florida to Trump by a landslide. Paul Ryan was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 and lost to the Obama/Biden ticket.

The last two members of the Kennedy Family to run for president failed. His grandfather, former U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, ran in 1968. He won four states in the Democratic Party nomination process but was assassinated by 24-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan the night he won the California primary. Senator Ted Kennedy, the congressman’s uncle, challenged incumbent President Jimmy Carter in 1980. He won twelve states, and Carter would go on to lose re-election to Reagan.

Kennedy, 37, is young and has served only three terms in the House of Representatives. He got his undergraduate degree from Stanford University and his law degree from Harvard. He co-chaired Ted Kennedy’s 2006 re-election campaign and was an Assistant District Attorney for Middlesex County, Massachusetts. When Congressman Barney Frank announced his retirement in 2012, Kennedy ran for Massachusett’s 4th congressional district.

So, can Joe Kennedy beat the SOTU curse?

Writing in Politico Magazine, John Farrell concludes:

“Kennedy can’t rightly abandon his outspoken support for the Dreamers and other vulnerable immigrants, for women fighting sexual harassment, or for minorities insisting that their lives matter. But nor can he forget the interests of white working-class families, many of whom deserted the Democrats in 2016, caught in the squeeze of globalization, their communities torn by opioid addiction. He must endeavor to bridge the divide as his grandfather did, running for president 50 years ago, and try to persuade viewers that the way out of our current state of polarized, stunted politics is via a return to the finer American principles of justice, empathy, community and fairness.

The challenge is not unique to Kennedy. Democrats will face it in the fall, and again in the next presidential election. They, and others, will look to a young Kennedy on Tuesday, to see whether he has found a way.”

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