May 8, 2024 - Politics & Policy

RFK Jr. challenges Trump to a debate at Libertarian convention

RFK Jr. speaking in Holbrook, New York, in April 2024.

RFK Jr. speaking in Holbrook, New York, in April. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Long-shot independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Wednesday challenged former President Trump to a debate at a Libertarian convention later this month.

Why it matters: Recent polling suggests Kennedy, who has qualified for the presidential ballot in four states, including the swing state Michigan, is potentially hurting Trump's campaign more than President Biden's.

  • Kennedy has also reportedly met the signature threshold to appear on the ballots in at least six more states.

What they're saying: Kennedy, who has adopted a more Trumpian tone, said in a letter to Trump posted on X that he deserves the debate because of his polling numbers and because he's "drawing a lot of voters from your former supporters."

  • "They are upset that you blew up the deficit, shut down their businesses during Covid, and filled your administration with swamp creatures," Kennedy said. "So I'd like to make you an offer."
  • "We're both going to be speaking at the upcoming Libertarian convention on May 24 and 25," Kennedy added. "It's perfect neutral territory for you and me to have a debate where you can defend your record for your wavering supporters."

Trump, who at one point said Kennedy's campaign was "great for MAGA," claimed last month Kennedy was a "Democrat plant" and a "wasted protest vote."

The big picture: While Trump has been open to debating Biden, he's avoided debates with other candidates, such as those who challenged him for the GOP primary.

  • Conservative media has shifted the volume and tone of coverage on Kennedy in recent weeks after he switched to running as an Independent instead of a Democrat, Axios' Alex Thompson and Sara Fischer report.

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