He is the grandson of Robert Kennedy, the former New York Senator who was assassinated during his 1968 run for president, and the greatnephew of JFK and late Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy. His last name may play well with a nostalgic Democratic base—and at age 37, he represents a younger wave of Democrats hoping to take the reigns of an aging party.
Still, Democrats could face some criticism over their choice. The party has opted for a white man from a legacy family during the height of the #MeToo and Time's Up women's movements and in the midst of an immigration debate that puts great strain on many first-generation Democrats.
“Democrats have deputized an Ivy League blue blood with a trust fund and a famous name to reconnect with the common man,” Republican commentator Philip Wegmann wrote.
The Republican political action committee America Rising called him a “rich, boring Pelosi ally.”
Kennedy served with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republican from 2004 to 2006. Elected to Congress in 2013, he's now a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the LGBT Equality Caucus. He also serves on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
Young party members often use the response as a launching pad for greater political ambitions, Republican responders to President Obama included then Representative Paul Ryan, now House Speaker; Senator Marco Rubio; and then South Carolina Governor, and now U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley.
Kennedy has told reporters that he aspires to run for Senate. He has yet to indicate any presidential ambitions, but that hasn’t stopped others from fantasizing. Town & Country magazine called the redhead “the next President Kennedy.”
Kennedy previewed the contents of his rebuttal on Twitter this week, writing, “From health care to economic justice to civil rights, the Democratic agenda stands in powerful contrast to President Trump’s broken promises to American families. Deeply honored to be chosen to deliver the response to the State of the Union next week. Stay tuned for updates!”