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Scripps News Exclusive: Trump willing to include Kennedy in debates with Biden

Trump and President Biden have agreed to debate twice before 2024 election.
Trump interview
Posted at 8:04 AM, May 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-16 09:04:24-04

In an exclusive interview with Scripps News on Thursday, former President Donald Trump said he would have “no problem” sharing the debate stage with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. if the independent presidential candidate met the polling threshold.

The comments to Scripps News political correspondent Charles Benson come one day after the Trump and Biden campaigns agreed to two one-on-one debates. The first will be hosted by CNN on June 27 and the second by ABC News on Sept. 10.

The two debates are not part of the longstanding Commission on Presidential Debates, which invited candidates who garnered at least 15% in national polls. A YouGov poll released this week found Kennedy polling far below the 15% threshold at 3%.

“I would have no problem if he got whatever the threshold is,” Trump told Benson. “But he’s very low and seems to be heading in the other direction, in the wrong direction.”

Trump and Biden at 2020 debate.

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CNN announced that candidates must receive at least 15% support in four polls and appear on enough state ballots to reach 270 Electoral College votes — the number needed to win the White House.

Kennedy’s campaign says it is officially on the ballot in six states and has enough signatures to qualify for eight more.

The conversation with Milwaukee-based Benson comes two months ahead of the Republican National Convention taking place in that city. Trump said there is “a pretty good chance” he will announce his vice presidential pick at the convention.

“I don’t say anything is 100%, but you’re getting pretty close,” Trump said. “I’ll be doing it in Milwaukee. We’re going to have a great time."

Wisconsin was among six states won by Trump in 2016 that Biden picked up in 2020. Having the convention in Wisconsin will allow Trump to directly appeal to the battleground state's voters.

"They're going to remember that because we're bringing a lot of jobs and a lot of economic development," Trump said. "We're bringing our convention and we have plenty of options. We're bringing the convention to Milwaukee. It really is an important state for us. Wisconsin has to be won by us. We want to win it."

To win Wisconsin, Trump will likely need voters to show up early and on Election Day. Trump has been reluctant to embrace early voting despite the Wisconsin Republican Party chair noting the importance of it.

"So, I want to get back to the same-day ballot. One day — everyone votes in one day, all the ballots are together," Trump said. "Paper — you know, paper is very sophisticated. They do watermark paper, and it's very hard to cheat."