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Tags: rfk jr | debate | 2024 election

Why RFK Jr. Does Not Belong on the Debate Stage

robert kennedy junior speaking to a group in front of a campaign banner
(Getty Images)

Susan Estrich By Thursday, 06 June 2024 11:53 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

With the deadline quickly approaching for him to qualify for the June CNN presidential debate, RFK Jr. has yet to meet the commonsense qualifications that CNN has set for participants.

Which is at it should be. He doesn't belong on the stage. His candidacy is at best a distraction and at worst a spoiler. What it most certainly is not is a serious bid for the presidency.

He is the candidate of confusion — a Kennedy who has no legitimate claim to the legacy he is running on, opposed unanimously by his own family and with good reason. If he had a different name, he would be readily dismissed as the quack that he is.

CNN should stick to its guns and keep him off the stage, and efforts to keep him off the ballot are critically important.

There are two criteria that CNN has rightly set for a serious debate to help pick the next president. The first is a showing of at least 15% in four nationally recognized polls. He currently has three of those qualifying polls, one from CNN itself, and the other two from Quinnipiac University and Marquette University Law School.

Those polls are in one sense outliers; a poll from The New York Times, in the same time period, has him as low as 2%, an indication of the variations in polling and the way the questions are asked. Still, if he can score in one more poll, he would have met one of the criteria.

The second criteria is the one Kennedy is not close to meeting, as the deadline for doing so draws nearer. An independent or third party, the CNN rules say, "must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidency."

He must, in short, appear on enough ballots that if won in every state where he is officially qualified for the ballot, he would have a majority of the Electoral College. In theory, at least, he must be capable of winning. What's unfair about that?

Kennedy is not even close. After months of effort, and millions of dollars spent on collecting signatures, fighting for minor party endorsements (from parties already entitled to a place of the ballot), and legal action, The New York Times is reporting that Kennedy has officially qualified in only six states — California, Utah, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Michigan and Delaware — which total 89 electoral college votes, less than a third of what he needs.

The campaign says he has qualified for the ballot in 11 other states, where it has filed petitions — Nebraska, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Idaho, Nevada, Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, New York and New Jersey — but its status has not yet been confirmed in those states and might not be in time for the debate on June 27.

An application to be on the ballot is not enough, according to the CNN rules; it must actually be approved. And even if all of them were, that would still leave him 32 electoral votes short.

Indeed, there are likely to be signature challenges, and legal ones by local Democratic and Republican party officials as well.

Last week, Kennedy filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against CNN claiming that it violated campaign finance laws by colluding with the Biden and Trump campaigns to keep him out of the debate. "CNN adopted criteria that they believed would keep me off the stage," and interprets those criteria to "weight(s) them towards the candidates they want on the stage."

The complaint is hogwash. Nothing in federal election law stops CNN from sponsoring a debate limited to the serious candidates for the presidency and keeping an imposter with no chance of winning off the stage. As he should be.

Susan Estrich is a politician, professor, lawyer and writer. She has appeared on the pages of The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post. Ms. Estrich has also appeared as a television commentator on CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS and NBC. Her focus is on legal matters, women's concerns, national politics, and social issues. Read Susan Estrich's Reports — More Here.

© Creators Syndicate Inc.

CNN should stick to its guns and keep him off the stage, and efforts to keep him off the ballot are critically important.
rfk jr, debate, 2024 election
Thursday, 06 June 2024 11:53 AM
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