RFK Jr. fails to qualify for CNN debate, sparking showdown between Biden and Trump

Independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. failed to qualify for the first presidential debate, hosted by CNN next week, officially setting up a head-to-head clash between President Joe Biden and the former president Donald Trump.

CNN published a report Thursday morning that the network’s window for candidates to meet the criteria for the June 27 debate in Atlanta closed just after midnight Eastern Time, “with Biden and Trump meeting the constitutional thresholds , qualification and ballot”. A CNN spokesperson confirmed that Kennedy was not eligible.

Kennedy had failed to meet CNN’s 15% threshold in at least four approved national polls, reaching that threshold in only three polls before the deadline. He also failed to meet the network’s voting criteria, which required candidates to gain access to enough states to win 270 electoral votes, a significant task for a third party at this point in the election cycle.

According to an NBC News analysis, Kennedy is currently on the ballot in 10 states, but is being held pending verification or application windows in a handful of others.

Kennedy’s absence from the stage next week will be a blow to his long-running campaign as he seeks to gain ground on presumptive major party nominees.

“My exclusion from the debate by Presidents Biden and Trump is undemocratic, un-American and cowardly,” Kennedy said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “Americans want an independent leader who will break the two-party duopoly. They want a president who will heal divisions, restore the middle class, relax the war machine, and end the chronic disease epidemic. »

Last month, Kennedy’s campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against CNN and the Biden and Trump campaigns, alleging that the manner in which they organized the June 27 presidential debate was illegal. Stefanie Spear, the campaign’s press secretary, said she was “considering” further legal action ahead of the evening’s debate.

“President Trump has repeatedly said he has no problem debating RFK Jr. “And he believes any candidate qualified for the ballot should be allowed to make his case to American voters,” said Trump campaign national press secretary Karoline Leavitt said in a statement Thursday. “It is Joe Biden and the Democrats who are using financial and legal resources to keep RFK off the ballot because they know RFK Jr. is a radical leftist who gets more votes from Biden than from President Trump.

Kennedy has already used the prospect of his omission from the stage to claim that the election was rigged against political outsiders, with his campaign booking $100,000 in television ads on the day of the debate.

Kennedy still has a chance to qualify for September. 10 debate, hosted by ABC News. This debate has the same ballot access and voting criteria as CNN’s, although it is clear when the voting window will open. It will also give Kennedy more time to gain access to more ballots across the country.

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