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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. fails to qualify for presidential debate with Biden, Trump

Biden, Trump gear up for first debate of 2024
Biden, Trump gear up for first debate of 2024 02:24

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy has failed to qualify for the presidential debate with President Biden and former President Donald Trump. The debate will be hosted by CNN next week in Atlanta, on June 27. Kennedy had until 12:00:01 a.m. ET Thursday to fulfill the debate requirements.

Under CNN's criteria, a candidate must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to be eligible to win 270 electoral votes, the number needed to win the presidency. Kennedy is on the ballot in five states — Utah, Michigan, Delaware, Oklahoma and Tennessee — for a total of 42 electoral votes. He'll also be on the ballot in California as the nominee of the American Independent Party, and in Hawaii, on his We the People ticket, which adds up to 100 potential electoral votes.

Though Kennedy has submitted petitions for ballot access in a number of states, several of his applications are still being reviewed by the state election offices.

Candidates were also required to reach a polling threshold of 15% in four major national polls by June 20. According to CNN, Kennedy fell short, with three qualifying national polls.

"Presidents Biden and Trump do not want me on the debate stage and CNN illegally agreed to their demand," Kennedy said in a statement. "My exclusion by Presidents Biden and Trump from the debate is undemocratic, un-American, and cowardly."

In May, Kennedy's campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission accusing CNN, Mr. Biden, Trump and their campaigns of violating federal election law. 

The Kennedy campaign claims CNN approached the debate criteria differently for Kennedy than for Trump and Mr. Biden, the presumptive nominees of their respective parties. The debate will take place before either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party hold their conventions to formalize their nominees. The Kennedy campaign is alleging the debate is an illegal campaign contribution to both Mr. Biden and Trump

"By demanding our campaign meet different criteria to participate in the debate than Presidents Biden and Trump, CNN's debate violates FEC law and is a large prohibited corporate contribution to both the Biden and Trump campaigns," Kennedy said.

Kennedy says that he cannot file a lawsuit until the FCC complaint is dismissed. His campaign says that the FEC stated there might be merit in his complaint and won't dismiss it, but it has not yet reached a decision. The FEC declined to comment.

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