RFK Jr. is on track to miss the CNN debate amid race to get on state ballots

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. appears set to fall short of qualifying for CNN’s presidential debate when the deadline passes this week, leaving the September ABC News debate as his big chance to join President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump onstage.

Kennedy hasn’t yet hit CNN’s polling threshold of 15% in at least four approved national polls, having gotten only three so far. But more critically, Kennedy is almost assured to fall short of the network’s ballot access criteria because securing access in enough states to win 270 electoral votes is a Herculean task for a nonmajor-party candidate at this early point in the election calendar. And on top of that, Kennedy’s campaign hasn’t been submitting its ballot access petitions at the pace needed to secure ballot lines ahead of the June 20 deadline — though it’s making clear strides toward qualifying by the next debate in the fall. 

That means Kennedy is almost certain to be watching from the sidelines as Biden and Trump debate next Thursday, depriving the independent of earned media and a chance to elevate his long-shot campaign. Instead, Kennedy appears poised to leverage his omission to argue the campaign is rigged against political outsiders. His campaign has booked $100,000 in national TV advertising on the day of the debate.

Last month, Kennedy’s campaign filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against CNN and against Biden and Trump’s campaigns, alleging the way they set up the June 27 presidential debate was illegal. Stefanie Spear, press secretary for the campaign, said it is “considering” further legal action ahead of debate night.

Kennedy faces an uphill battle in order to gain ballot access in all 50 states ahead of November, but at a campaign event in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this weekend, he said he’ll be on the ballot across the country “within four weeks.” 

The independent candidate has already qualified to appear on the ballot in nine states, representing 139 electoral votes, according to NBC News analysis and interviews with state officials. His campaign says it has also gathered enough signatures to surpass the requirement laid out in CNN’s criteria, but in many cases the signatures haven’t been officially submitted for verification, a process that can take weeks (if not longer). In some states, the windows to file those signatures aren’t even open yet. That’s why the debate window is closing on Kennedy, pending any last-minute legal action by state bureaucrats. 

In Minnesota, for example, a spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office confirmed to NBC News that it received a nominating petition for Kennedy and running mate Nicole Shanahan on Friday, June 7. But, the spokesperson added, “Minnesota law provides the office with ten working days to review and verify the petition. Due to an upcoming state holiday on June 19, we have until June 24 to complete this work.”

There are also other challenges in states where he’s filed signatures. New York Board of Election officials said they have received 13 objections to Kennedy’s petitions, though only six followed up. The process of adjudicating those objections is underway, but in the meantime, the office noted that no candidate is officially on the New York ballot until they are certified by the state Board of Elections Commissioners in late summer. 

In Texas, meanwhile, Kennedy is still awaiting word from the secretary of state’s office about verification. 

He also faces a tough reality in battleground states like Arizona, where the filing window for independent candidates to turn in petition signatures for ballot access doesn’t start until July 28, the secretary of state’s office said. That’s more than a month after CNN’s debate, let alone the network’s deadline. 

And Kennedy’s attempt to gain ballot access in Nevada has been frustrated by revelations that a member of the secretary of state’s office incorrectly told the campaign it could file petitions without the name of his running mate. He was subsequently told that the state does require petitions to include a running mate and his petitions were disqualified, leading Kennedy to file a lawsuit against the state. 

Emails obtained by NBC News revealed that the campaign resubmitted its petition to gather signatures with Shanahan’s name attached last week. This puts the Kennedy campaign up against a short timeline to gather over 10,000 signatures by July 5. 

The next chance for Kennedy to qualify for the debate stage is Sept. 10, when ABC News will host another presidential faceoff. That debate has the same ballot access and polling criteria as CNN’s, although it’s unclear the polling window will open for ABC News’ criteria.

So, while Kennedy has struggled to get the ballot access he needs by the June deadline, he’s in far better shape to do so ahead of September.

Source link

Leave a Comment