Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Challenges Trump to Debate at Libertarian Convention

‘Let’s meet at the Libertarian convention and show the American public that at least two of the major candidates aren’t afraid to debate each other,’ Mr. Kennedy said.

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Will the Libertarian Party convention host the first major presidential debate of 2024?

The Independent presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., challenged President Trump on Tuesday to debate him at the Libertarian convention in Washington DC over Memorial Day weekend. This comes as questions swirl over whether President Biden and Mr. Trump will debate at all — and whether Mr. Kennedy will be included.

Mr. Trump announced last week he will be speaking at the Libertarian Party’s convention, signaling how important the libertarian vote will be in a close 2024 election. In 2020, Mr. Trump lost several swing states, including Arizona, Wisconsin, and Georgia, by fewer votes than those cast for the Libertarian candidate, Jo Jorgenson.

On Tuesday, Mr. Kennedy announced he will be speaking at the Libertarian convention as well. Mr. Kennedy has courted the libertarian vote since he announced his run, but he ruled out seeking the party’s nomination just last month.

“Let’s meet at the Libertarian convention and show the American public that at least two of the major candidates aren’t afraid to debate each other,” Mr. Kennedy wrote in an open letter to Mr. Trump. “I asked the convention organizers and they are game for us to use our time there to bring the American people the debate they deserve!”

Mr. Trump may be eager to debate Mr. Biden, but he called Mr. Kennedy “not a serious candidate” last week when asked whether he would debate him. The Trump campaign has ramped up its attacks on Mr. Kennedy in recent weeks after some polls showed Mr. Kennedy pulling more votes from Mr. Trump.

Mr. Kennedy responded Tuesday with a CNN and a Quinnipiac poll showing him with 16 percent support. “I’m also drawing a lot of voters from your former supporters,” Mr. Kennedy said in his letter to Mr. Trump.

“They are upset that you blew up the deficit, shut down their businesses during Covid, and filled your administration with swamp creatures,” Mr. Kenendy said. “You yourself have said that you’re not afraid to debate me as long as my poll numbers are decent. Well, they are.”

The Trump campaign has not responded to this challenge and did not return the Sun’s request for comment.

Members of the Libertarian Party are divided about having Messrs. Trump and Kennedy speak at their convention and about having a debate that doesn’t include the Libertarian candidate. The problem is that the party won’t nominate its candidate until Sunday of the convention, while Mr. Trump is slated to speak Saturday.  

“I would be shocked if Trump would actually agree to debate,” the chairman of the Libertarian Party’s Classical Liberal Caucus, Jonathan Casey, tells the Sun. “But let’s say Trump does agree to debate RFK, and the Libertarian Party candidate, which we wouldn’t have even selected by Saturday night, isn’t there — what would that say?”

Mr. Casey says a debate with the Libertarian candidate and Messrs. Kennedy and Trump would be welcome, but a debate without the Libertarian candidate would make the party seem “irrelevant.”

“Not all press is good press,” Mr. Casey says.

The party’s 2020 vice presidential candidate, Spike Cohen, agrees. “If RFK and Trump debate at the Libertarian convention, the Libertarian candidate should be in that debate,” he posted to X. “Not a shot in hell we get shut out of one at our own convention.”

A libertarian activist, Martha Bueno, tells the Sun she thinks the party’s chairwoman, Angela McArdle. is making a smart move by inviting Messrs. Kennedy and Trump. She says the convention is now going to be “the Super Bowl of politics.” 

“Thanks to this, we’re mainstream news right now,” Ms. Bueno says. “I think it’s awesome. I think it’s showing how important the Libertarian vote is to both candidates.”

The first official presidential debate isn’t scheduled until September 16. Mr. Trump, 77, has criticized the Commission on Presidential Debates for not scheduling the debates earlier and has cast doubt on whether Mr. Biden, who is 81 years old, will show. 

Mr. Biden told Howard Stern last week that he would be “happy to debate” Mr. Trump.  Mr. Trump responded, “We’re ready. Just tell me where.” Now, Mr. Kennedy is throwing down the same gauntlet. 


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