RFK Jr faces down midnight deadline to qualify for CNN presidential debate By Reuters

By Stephanie Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr has less than 24 hours to qualify for the first U.S. presidential debate of the 2024 election cycle, and a complaint filed with the hamstrung U.S. agency that oversees election policy might be his only hope.

CNN will host the debate on June 27, after incumbent President Joe Biden and his Republican rival Donald Trump agreed in late May to the face-off. The deadline for candidates to qualify for the debate is 12 a.m. ET (0400 GMT) on Thursday. Wednesday also marks the Juneteenth holiday, which will stall most federal business.

Kennedy filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission in late May alleging CNN’s debate amounts to a large prohibited campaign contribution to Biden and Trump because the media company “illegally” demanded that Kennedy meet “different criteria” to participate in the debate.

The campaign asked that the FEC take action by Thursday and keep CNN, Biden and Trump from holding the debate on June 27 until they have “come into compliance with the Federal Election Campaign Act,” according to the complaint.

The FEC declined to comment for this article. The agency, hobbled by political division, recently struggled to rule on artificial intelligence in the 2024 campaign, and has not ruled on related issues in recent elections, experts say.

This election cycle presents a nearly unprecedented situation – not since 1960 ushered in the era of televised presidential debates have news organizations – first CNN next week, and ABC, which hosts a September debate – been fully in control of the terms and parameters of two debates between the top two candidates.

Most recently, the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates has sponsored them.

CNN said candidates eligible to participate must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold needed to win and receive at least 15% in four separate national polls.

Soon after the debate was announced, Kennedy and his campaign cried foul. Kennedy claimed that Biden and Trump “are trying to exclude me from their debate because they are afraid I would win.”

On Saturday, CNN said it is “not impossible” Kennedy could qualify, but that he has not yet met the criteria. He has received at least 15% in three qualifying polls to date and has qualified for the ballot in six states, making him eligible for 89 electoral college votes, CNN said.

The Kennedy campaign declined to comment further for this article. It is in the middle of an aggressive operation to gain ballot access across the U.S., with $15 million raised for the process.

In a news release on Tuesday, the campaign said Kennedy is on the ballot in nine states – totaling 144 electoral votes – and has collected enough signatures to be on the ballot in 14 other states – for another 166 electoral votes.

Biden and Trump, as the presumptive nominees of the Democratic and Republican political parties, respectively, qualify because most states automatically allow them ballot access without petitioning, a CNN spokesperson said.

“The mere application for ballot access does not guarantee that he (Kennedy) will appear on the ballot in any state,” a CNN spokesperson told Reuters. “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.”

Derek Muller, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School, said CNN’s criteria is “nonsensical” because it allows Biden and Trump to qualify for the debate as presumptive nominees versus candidates. Biden and Trump will officially be named candidates at their parties’ conventions later this summer, after the debate.

Having an independent candidate like Kennedy on stage may make for a more substantive debate, he said.

“If you’re saying that we’re looking for those candidates that have serious support to weigh major issues, and dealing with two of the least popular major presidential candidates of all time, then the debate could definitely benefit from having a third party on the stage. It’s all dependent on your point of view.”

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. addresses the Libertarian Party's national convention in Washington, U.S., May 24, 2024.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

Some 41% of registered voters in a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll said they would vote for Trump if the election were held today, while 39% picked Biden.

Ten percent of respondents would pick Kennedy, if he were on the ballot with Trump and Biden, the poll showed.

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Jayveer Singh Negi
Jayveer Singh Negi

My name is Jayveer Singh Negi and I have done engineering in Computer Science. Basically, I am a resident of Gudam, a small village in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand state. I have been working as a network engineer in different companies for about 7 years and with this, I have always been interested in blogging, That's why I started this website with my friends.

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