The Big Hurdle Between R.F.K. Jr. and the Debate Stage (It’s Not a Poll)

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But another part of the campaign’s strategy in some cases has been to deliberately slow-walk the filing of paperwork with election officials, in order to give his opponents less time to challenge his petitions, The Times reported. Though some states give candidates until August or September to file their ballot petitions, CNN’s deadline to qualify for the debate stage is a week before the event.

Stefanie Spear, a spokeswoman for the Kennedy campaign, said on Monday that the campaign was planning to file ballot petitions in other states in the coming weeks, in an effort to qualify for the debate. But CNN has previously said that “the mere application for ballot access” does not count as being on the ballot in that state.

Mr. Kennedy’s sophisticated ballot access operation has, so far, officially gotten him on the ballot in only six states — California, Utah, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Michigan and Delaware — totaling 89 electoral college votes. That leaves him with only about a third of the votes needed, and racing against the clock to make up the difference with a little more than two weeks to go.

The campaign says he has qualified for the ballot in 11 other states, where it has filed petitions — often with tens of thousands of signatures, or the backing of a minor party — but where its status has not yet been confirmed by the state: Nebraska, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Idaho, Nevada, Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, New York and New Jersey.

If all of those additional states were approved, that would be 149 more votes, bringing Mr. Kennedy’s total to 238. But there is no guarantee that will happen — and certainly no guarantee that it will happen in time for the June 27 debate.


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