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The Shanahan Persuasion Campaign

nicole shanahan
This anti-R.F.K. coalition is now locked in an interesting debate over how cruelly to nuke someone who was, until recently, one of their own. Photo: Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The Democratic National Committee
Theodore Schleifer
April 16, 2024

The murderer’s row of Democratic operatives working to tank Robert Kennedy Jr.’s third-party presidential bid couldn’t help but roll their eyes last week when Silicon Valley congressman Ro Khanna sent a letter (and planted a story about it) to Nicole Shanahan, whom R.F.K. named as his running mate in late March, asking her to drop off the ticket. Of course, plenty of Democrats complained to me, here was Khanna, a notorious publicity hound, eagerly doing the bidding of the ultra-aggressive MoveOn—a stunt that would only provoke Shanahan to dig in her heels. Then, a few days later, there was the ubiquitous James Carville emailing Anne Wojcicki—the prominent Silicon Valley executive whose ex-husband, Sergey Brin, later married (and divorced) Shanahan—looking for salacious oppo on the candidate’s personal life, a fishing expedition that promptly leaked (without Wojcicki’s name). More complaints…

These flashpoints expose one burgeoning disagreement among the Democratic operatives and allied donors who have spent the past year focused on kneecapping No Labels, and who are now ready to turn their fire on Kennedy. This crew—50-strong and representing entities such as Third Way, MoveOn, The Lincoln Project, American Bridge, and wealthy benefactors like Reid Hoffman—generally liked collaborating to defang a third-party opponent, and many involved felt they’d developed an effective division of labor along the way. Kennedy, many of them fear, could pose an even greater threat, especially with key Democratic constituencies such as Black voters in Michigan or Hispanic voters in Nevada. The Biden team is now closely coordinating with this loose federation, setting up a new super PAC—Clear Choice, funded initially by Silicon Valley players including Hoffman and Ron Conway—intended to manage the operation among these diverse outside groups.