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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Excluded from Atlanta Debate, Fails to Meet CNN Criteria

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will not participate in the upcoming debate in Atlanta, as he did not meet the necessary criteria set by CNN. Kennedy failed to achieve the required state ballot qualifications and polling thresholds.

Consequently, the June 27 debate will feature only Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican nominee Donald Trump, excluding Kennedy from a major opportunity to present himself alongside the leading candidates and boost his campaign’s legitimacy.

Kennedy criticized his exclusion from the debate, calling it “undemocratic, un-American, and cowardly.” Both Biden and Trump campaigns are concerned that Kennedy could act as a spoiler in the close general election.

According to CNN’s criteria, candidates needed to be on the ballot in states with at least 270 Electoral College votes and achieve a 15% threshold in four reliable national polls by June 20. Kennedy’s campaign claims he qualifies for the ballot in 22 states, but this has not been fully confirmed.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

CNN reported that Kennedy did not meet the polling requirements, having reached 15% in only three qualifying polls, and is currently on the ballot in six states, representing 89 Electoral College votes.

Last month, Kennedy filed a complaint alleging CNN’s debate criteria were biased to exclude him, accusing the network of colluding with Biden and Trump. CNN dismissed the complaint as meritless, and Kennedy’s campaign has not indicated if further action will be taken regarding his exclusion.

Biden and Trump agreed to the CNN debate and a second debate hosted by ABC on September 10, bypassing the nonpartisan commission that has organized presidential debates for decades.

Following a coin toss, Biden’s campaign chose the right podium position, with Trump on the left. Trump will deliver his closing statement after Biden. Both campaigns agreed to the debate format, where microphones will be muted except for the speaking candidate.

Kennedy’s absence from the debate underscores the challenges independent candidates face in gaining visibility and legitimacy in a political landscape dominated by the two major parties. His campaign’s struggle to meet the debate criteria highlights the high barriers to entry for third-party candidates in the U.S. electoral system.

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