RFK Jr. revs up ballot access campaign in response to sped-up debate criteria

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s first reaction to this week’s debate agreement between President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump and CNN was to accuse them of “colluding” against him. But within hours, the independent presidential candidate changed his tune: He was going to try to win a one-month sprint to meet CNN’s criteria and crash the stage.

The question is whether both Kennedy’s ballot-access machine and the state government offices that will process his petition signatures are capable of moving quickly enough to get him on enough state ballots by mid-June to meet the debate criteria — and what exactly the cable network’s criteria, which have been used for autumn presidential debates for decades, mean in a different context at the beginning of summer.

Kennedy’s campaign has long aimed to get on the ballot in all 50 states before Election Day, but the debate accelerated its timeline because one of the criteria for participation is being “on a sufficient number of state ballots to reach the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidency prior to the eligibility deadline” a week before the debate.

Kennedy’s campaign said the candidate and his team had a call scheduled with CNN Friday afternoon regarding the June 27 debate in Atlanta. The campaign did not answer additional questions Friday about what happened during that call. But in the meantime, it is pushing forward its plans to qualify for state general election ballots, gathering and turning in petition signatures earlier than initially expected.