Sean Hannity had a full agenda for his show on Monday night. He had to explain away the recording of Donald Trump discussing a classified document. He needed to cast evidence-light allegations against President Biden. And, in keeping with a theme, he wanted to present Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as an increasingly dire threat to the sitting president’s renomination.

“With RFK Jr. … surging in the Democratic primary, is Biden in trouble?” Hannity asked at the top of his show, teasing what was to come for his audience. “We have details tonight.”

He never actually got to those details, perhaps because he had to devote more time to that recording than he’d intended. But The Washington Post can report categorically that the details are as follows: Kennedy is not surging in the polls — except when we’re talking about people like Sean Hannity.

That Kennedy pulls anywhere from a few percentage points to a sixth of the vote in Democratic primary polling has been a subject of fascination for a while. There are a lot of reasons for that, including that Kennedy, son of the late senator and former attorney general, is a Kennedy, Biden is generally unpopular, and the idea of a vigorously contested Democratic primary is more interesting than the idea of a lightly contested one.

Because Biden’s lead is so robust, and because serious challenges to incumbents are relatively rare, there isn’t a lot of consistent polling on the Democratic field. But we do have at least one well-regarded pollster who has asked about the race more than once since Kennedy declared his candidacy in mid-April.

YouGov has asked Democratic primary voters how they plan to vote at least three times since then. And, each time, the results have been about the same. Biden gets between 62 percent and 67 percent of the vote. Kennedy gets 8 to 12 percent. Marianne Williamson, who also ran in 2020, gets 4 to 6 percent.

The up-and-down fluctuations here don’t matter much, given the polls’ margins of error. But that is important by itself: Kennedy isn’t “surging” in this poll. He’s just sitting down there where he always was.

This isn’t to say that YouGov hasn’t measured any change in Kennedy’s numbers, mind you. The pollster also asked respondents in April and in June whether they viewed him favorably. Between those two polls, the percentage of respondents who said they viewed him favorably ticked up slightly.

But that was solely a function of improvement among non-Democrats. In April, Kennedy’s net favorability (the percent who view him favorably minus those who don’t) was at plus-20 overall and slightly lower among both Democrats and Republicans. By June, though, net favorability among Republicans had jumped to plus-29, while it had fallen to plus-7 among Democrats.

That’s in part because the percentage of Democrats with strong opinions about Kennedy had shifted. The percentage of Democrats saying they had strongly favorable opinions of him fell from 20 percent to 14 percent over this period; the percentage with strongly unfavorable opinions jumped from 15 percent to 22 percent.

Kennedy gets more support against Biden from independents than he does from Democrats. In the most recent YouGov poll, Biden leads him by 63 points with members of the Democratic Party but by only 42 points with independents. Unfortunately for Kennedy, most Democratic primary voters are Democrats.

Frustratingly for Hannity, there is no Kennedy surge, and, at this point at least, there is no strong threat to Biden. It is true that, at this point in the 2016 nominating fight, Hillary Clinton had a similarly robust lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). But she was not the incumbent president, facing a potential general election challenge from one of the figures most hated by the political left. Nor was Sanders embracing right-wing platforms, media and rhetoric as he sought to build his support. Kennedy very much is — which is in part why his favorability numbers have increased among Republicans.

But, then, Hannity is not in the business of presenting reality to his audience.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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