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R.F.K. Jr., Invited to Libertarian Convention, Seeks Trump Debate

U.S.R.F.K. Jr., Invited to Libertarian Convention, Seeks Trump Debate

The independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. challenged former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday to debate him this month during the Libertarian Party’s national convention in Washington, where both men are set to deliver remarks.

With Mr. Trump escalating his attacks on him on social media, Mr. Kennedy, who is seeking ballot access and voter support in all 50 states, issued his challenge in an open letter on X. Mr. Kennedy cited his performance in two national polls, saying he was “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,” he said. “So I’d like to make you an offer,” he said, adding that their campaign schedules made for a logical showdown. “It’s perfect neutral territory for you and me to have a debate where you can defend your record for your wavering supporters.”

A spokesman for the Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the Libertarian Party did not immediately provide a comment.

The party’s convention is set for Memorial Day weekend in Washington. Mr. Kennedy is set to speak on May 24, his campaign said on Tuesday; Mr. Trump is scheduled for May 25. Both candidates are trying to appeal to a broader base of support in the election, but neither is expected to be on the party’s ballot line in November.

Mr. Kennedy previously ruled out running as a Libertarian, though he has courted party members since he became an independent last fall. The party is among the more established third parties, and as of last week was on the ballot in 37 states; Mr. Kennedy is mounting a state-by-state effort to get on the November election ballot.

As for Mr. Trump, Angela McArdle, the chairwoman of the Libertarian party, said last week that it was “not possible” under the party’s bylaws to nominate him.

Several candidates seeking the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination have condemned the group’s decision to invite Mr. Trump to speak at the gathering. One of them, Jacob Hornberger, called it an “abomination.”

The gamesmanship by Mr. Kennedy, a liberal scion and environmental lawyer who has recently become better known for his anti-vaccine activism and promotion of conspiracy theories, appears to have added to growing hostilities between him and Mr. Trump.

The former president has sharpened his attacks on Mr. Kennedy as more polls show signs that his candidacy could take votes away from Mr. Trump. For many months, Democrats had argued the opposite: that Mr. Kennedy could wind up playing the role of spoiler for Mr. Biden.

Last week, Mr. Kennedy proposed that his campaign and Mr. Biden’s jointly conduct a poll in October to see who would do better against Mr. Trump in a hypothetical two-way race; he suggested that the underperformer should drop out.


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