RFK Jr. Fails to Qualify for First Presidential Debate With Trump, Biden

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at a Cesar Chavez Day event at Union Station on March 30, 2024, in Los Angeles. (Mario Tama/Getty Images/TNS)

(New York Daily News/TNS) — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has failed to qualify for next week’s debate between President Biden and former President Trump, setting the stage for the two major-party candidates to clash in their first face-to-face confrontation of the 2024 campaign.

The independent candidate fell short of the threshold set by the network of at least 15% support in four recent national opinion polls.

RFK Jr. also hasn’t secured ballot spots in enough states to win a majority of 270 electoral votes, the second condition laid out by the network for next Thursday’s televised debate. So far, he’s only on the ballot in 10 states.

His campaign accused the network of unspecified campaign finance violations for excluding him.

“My exclusion by Presidents Biden and Trump from the debate is undemocratic, un-American, and cowardly,” Kennedy said.

The decision sets the stage for the much-anticipated first debate of the Biden-Trump White House rematch on next Thursday, June 27 at 9 pm.

Trump will get the last word in the clash after his campaign won a coin flip, it was announced on Thursday. The debate, which will be moderated by Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, will run for 90 minute. Both campaigns have agreed to the ground rules.

There will be no live audience, unlike most recent presidential debates. The candidates’ microphones will be muted except when it’s their turn to speak.

The moderators have been told to “use all tools at their disposal to enforce timing and ensure a civilized discussion,” per the rules.

The rules were included at the request of Biden campaign to combat Trump’s penchant for continually interrupting his debate opponents and moderators in past debates with Biden four years ago and Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2016.

This year’s confrontation is by far the earliest any general election debate has ever been held. All previous debates were held after Labor Day during the traditional fall campaign season.

A second debate is expected to be held Sept. 10.

The two campaigns reached a lightning-quick agreement last month to set the debate, largely because both teams believe they will benefit from it.

Trump’s team had been saying for months that Biden was too old to debate and that the former president would be the victor in a side-by-side showcase.

But Biden’s campaign believes Trump will turn off American voters with his mercurial and combative personality.

The incumbent is also anxious to use the debate to jumpstart his effort to bring home the Democratic base of voters, many of whom have yet to get behind another Biden term.

Incumbent presidents have traditionally performed poorly in their first reelection debates.

Some observers predict a significantly lower audience this time because so many voters have yet to focus on the contest.

A recent Quinnipiac survey said 72% of Americans plan to tune in at least some of the debate.

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