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RFK Jr. New York campaign official says her ‘No. 1 priority’ is preventing a Biden victory

By Aaron Pellish and Eva McKend, CNN

(CNN) — A New York-based campaign official for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is pitching Republican voters to support his independent presidential bid by arguing that Kennedy will help Donald Trump defeat Joe Biden if he’s on the ballot in New York.

Rita Palma, who has identified herself as the Kennedy campaign’s state director in New York, has repeatedly made the case, including in a meeting with Empire State Republicans, that efforts to put Kennedy on the ballot in New York will help “get rid of Biden,” which she called her “No. 1 priority,” and make it easier for Trump to win the historically Democratic state.

“The only way that Trump can even, remote possibility of taking New York is if Bobby is on the ballot. If it’s Trump vs. Biden, Biden wins. Biden wins six days, seven days a week. With Bobby in the mix, anything can happen,” Palma said in a video of the meeting with Republicans in New York viewed by CNN.

“The only way for him, for Bobby, to shake it up and to get rid of Biden is if he’s on the ballot in every state, including New York,” she continued.

Palma’s comments come as the Biden campaign has argued that Kennedy’s campaign is a spoiler that will ultimately benefit Trump at the ballot box in November.

Palma confirmed to CNN the legitimacy of the video. In a statement to CNN, Kennedy campaign spokesperson Stefanie Spear downplayed Palma’s role in the campaign and said her comments do not reflect the campaign’s strategy.

“Rita Palma is a ballot access consultant responsible for scheduling volunteer shifts for our upcoming signature collection drive in the Empire State. She is not involved in electoral strategy, nationally or in New York,” Spear said. “This was not a campaign event. Palma was speaking as a private citizen and her statements in no way reflect the strategy of the Kennedy campaign, which is to win the White House with votes from former Trump and Biden supporters alike.”

Palma is listed as the point of contact for multiple petition training events on the Kennedy campaign website, featuring her official Kennedy campaign email address.

CNN has reached out to American Values 2024, the super PAC backing his campaign, for comment.

In the video of Palma’s presentation to Republican voters, which was initially posted to YouTube but has since been removed, she referenced a series of slides summarizing her argument for backing Kennedy, which included a slide listing action items Republicans could use “to block Biden from winning the presidency.” Among the actions listed were “Collect signatures for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.,” “Go to Pennsylvania to help Trump,” and “Vote RFK Jr. for President!!”

Palma began by identifying herself as a Kennedy campaign staff member who had previously canvassed for Trump in Pennsylvania ahead of the 2016 and 2020 elections. She urged attendees to vote for Kennedy, suggesting their support for him increases the likelihood of an election in which no candidate receives a majority of Electoral College votes, or at least 270 electoral votes. Under that scenario, state delegations in Congress would vote to determine the outcome of the election. 

“So my thoughts are, Bobby’s moving the blues on his own. If the Republicans face, well, I guess accepted the fact that New York, Maryland, Illinois, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, most of the northeast is going to go blue, why wouldn’t we put our vote to Bobby and at least get rid of Biden and get those 28 electoral votes in New York … give those 28 electoral votes to Bobby rather than to Biden, thereby reducing Biden’s 270,” Palma said.

“Who are they going to pick? If it’s a Republican Congress, they’ll pick Trump. So we’re rid of Biden either way,” she added.

Palma also shared similar messages on her social media accounts, encouraging Republicans in New York and other traditionally Democratic states to “make your red vote count” by supporting Kennedy.

“Just a friendly reminder, NY, Cali, Illinois, CT, NJ, MD … let’s take those votes from Biden so Joe’s a loser,” she said in a social media post last week that has since been deleted.

Despite Palma promoting Kennedy to the Republican attendees at the meeting, she also invited members of the audience to sign petitions to put Kennedy on New York’s ballot even if they don’t plan to vote for him.

“Just because you sign a petition to get him on the ballot, you can vote how you like on November 6. We’re just spicing up the election. We’re just making it more interesting, giving us more choices, supporting the democratic process and eventually hopefully getting rid of Joe Biden out of the deep-blue states,” Palma said.

“We’re all on the same team right now, and we’ll be on the same team later, as long as Trump or Kennedy wins,” she added.

At one point in her presentation, Palma recommended members of the audience who support the former president to volunteer with the Trump campaign in battleground Pennsylvania.

“If you want to help Trump, go to Pennsylvania and knock on doors. I did that in ’16 and ’20,” she said.

Democratic National Committee spokesperson Matt Corridoni said the comments indicate that “RFK Jr.’s campaign is saying the quiet part out loud.”

“As the saying goes, when people show you who they are, believe them: RFK Jr.’s campaign isn’t building a plan or a strategy to get 270 electoral votes, they’re building one to help Trump return to the Oval Office,” Corridoni told CNN.

In social media posts on March 20, Palma said she had been hired by the Kennedy campaign as the New York state director. In the video, Palma said she previously worked for the “political action committee to get Bobby elected,” without naming the specific group. Social media posts prior to March 20 indicate she had supported Kennedy and Children’s Health Defense, the anti-vaccine group Kennedy founded, before officially joining the campaign. She has previously expressed support for Republican candidates on social media.

The messaging from a Kennedy campaign field organizer reinforces the campaign’s frequent attacks on Biden while providing new insight into how it may be looking to attract support from Republicans. Kennedy frequently criticizes Biden on a wide range of issues and recently argued that Biden is a greater threat to democracy than Trump, citing Kennedy’s own suspension from some social media platforms during the Biden administration as evidence.

While Democrats and Biden allies have organized aggressively to combat Kennedy, the Trump campaign has to this point largely ignored the independent’s campaign. Trump himself has welcomed Kennedy’s candidacy, saying in a social media post last month, “I love that he is running,” while labeling him “the most radical left candidate in the race.”

The Kennedy campaign sees obtaining ballot access in New York as among its most critical and challenging steps on the road to qualifying for the ballot in all 50 states and Washington, DC. A Kennedy campaign spokesperson told CNN that the campaign has designated New York as a priority for ballot access, with organizers working in all 62 counties in the state. The campaign will need to gather 45,000 valid signatures in the six-week window between April 16 and May 28.

This story and headline have been updated with additional information.

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