RFK Jr. Falls Short in Bid to Join June 27 Presidential Debate

The independent presidential candidate did not meet CNN’s ballot access and polling guidelines.

Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Jr.’s quest to qualify for CNN’s June 27 presidential debate has fallen short because of ballot access and polling.

CNN reported on June 20 that only President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have qualified for the debate.

By June 20, a candidate’s name must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidency, according to the qualification rules listed by CNN.

The Kennedy–Shanahan ticket has gathered enough signatures needed for ballot access in 23 states, totaling 310 electoral votes, according to the campaign.

In theory, that meets CNN’s debate qualification guidelines; however, states typically certify presidential candidates in August and September.

On May 28, Mr. Kennedy filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, claiming that CNN collaborated with the campaigns of President Biden and former President Trump to keep him out of the forum.

“[That is] a clear breach of federal campaign finance law,” Mr. Kennedy’s complaint reads.

Mr. Kennedy also argued that, until President Biden and former President Trump are formally nominated at the Democratic and Republican conventions this summer, they are “presumptive nominees” and not officially on the ballot.

CNN released a statement in response to the complaint claiming that “the law in virtually every state provides that the nominee of a state-recognized political party will be allowed ballot access without petitioning.”

“As the presumptive nominees of their parties both Biden and Trump will satisfy this requirement. As an independent candidate, under applicable laws RFK Jr. does not. The mere application for ballot access does not guarantee that he will appear on the ballot in any state. In addition, RFK Jr. does not currently meet our polling criteria, which, like the other objective criteria, were set before issuing invitations to the debate,” the statement reads.

Candidates must also get “at least 15 percent in four separate national polls of registered or likely voters that meet CNN’s standards for reporting” to participate in the debate.

CNN issued a long list of polls that meet its standards for debate eligibility, including surveys from CNN, ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, Marquette University Law School, Monmouth University, NBC News, The New York Times/Siena College, NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist College, Quinnipiac University, the Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Calif., on June 12, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Calif., on June 12, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

According to his campaign, Mr. Kennedy has met the requirements for three of those polls. Last week, he gained 17 percent support in a Marquette Law School survey. In April, he gained 16 percent backing in CNN and Quinnipiac polls.

The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates has overseen all presidential forums since 1988 until this year.

In a May 15 letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates, President Biden’s campaign stated that he would not participate in the commission’s planned fall debates, citing the preference for earlier dates.

Former President Trump’s campaign also sent a letter to the commission last month stating that it also prefers earlier debates.

Upon learning that he would not be allowed to take part in the forum, Mr. Kennedy expressed his dismay on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

“My exclusion by Presidents Biden and Trump from the debate is undemocratic, un-American, and cowardly. Americans want an independent leader who will break apart the two-party duopoly. They want a President who will heal the divide, restore the middle class, unwind the war machine, and end the chronic disease epidemic,” he wrote.


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