What to Know About CNN’s Presidential Debate in June


President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump will participate in a CNN debate on June 27, just six weeks away.

It is one of the earliest presidential debates ever scheduled, and the event was brokered without the involvement of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has hosted debates for nearly 40 years. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent presidential candidate, could qualify for the debate as well if he meets certain criteria.

Here’s what to know:

Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump will face off against each other at CNN’s studios in Atlanta, just a few miles from the Fulton County jail where the former president was booked last year in his felony criminal case in the state. That case concerns his effort to overturn his loss in the 2020 election.

The debate will be held in a crucial swing state that Mr. Biden won in 2020 by just 11,779 votes. But it will take place without an audience, satisfying a condition from Mr. Biden’s team, which wanted to avoid an in-person audience that could cheer, boo or otherwise derail the discussion. Mr. Biden’s team also called for CNN to cut off the candidates’ microphones when they use up their allotted time.

The debate will be moderated by Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, the hosts of CNN’s marquee political news program, “State of the Union.”

Yes, it is possible. CNN has laid out several conditions for third-party candidates. One requires earning at least 15 percent support in four national polls, approved by the network, between March 13 and June 20. Mr. Kennedy already has at least two approved polls that show him above 15 percent, one from CNN and one from Quinnipiac University. He has another five weeks to pick up two more qualifying polls.

Mr. Kennedy must also get on the ballot in enough states that he has a chance to win the 270 electoral college votes needed to be elected president. He is currently on the ballot in five states, worth a total of 84 electoral college votes.

Mr. Biden, in announcing his desired format on Wednesday, said that he expected the debates to be one on one. Mr. Trump said on Thursday that he was not wedded to that condition.

CNN did not comment.

Both the Trump and Biden campaigns have a mutual interest in circumventing the Commission on Presidential Debates and excluding Mr. Kennedy, who is drawing support from their own voters.

But it might actually be easier for a third-party candidate like Mr. Kennedy to qualify for the CNN debate, as compared with a traditional debate hosted by the commission. Under the rules for the commission’s debates, Mr. Kennedy would need an average of 15 percent support across five recent national polls, instead of 15 percent support in any four of the approved polls.

The average could have sharply decreased Mr. Kennedy’s viability. One poll released this week by The Economist and YouGov showed Mr. Kennedy with just 3 percent support, and Mr. Kennedy has polled only as high as 16 percent in other recent polls. Even the most favorable average of five recent polls would give Mr. Kennedy about 13.8 percent support.

Maggie Astor contributed reporting.

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