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Hello, friends.

3 things to know

  1. The Biden campaign announced a $50 million ad buy in swing states targeting former President Donald Trump for his conviction on 34 felony counts in a New York criminal trial. “This election is between a convicted criminal who is only out for himself, and a president who is fighting for your family,” the ad says. Read more.
  2. President Joe Biden broke Democratic fundraising records with a star-studded Hollywood event on Saturday that purportedly raised $30 million. The evening saw appearances from actors and TV personalities like George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack Black, adding to the list of celebrity endorsements Biden has received so far in his campaign. However, Trump has had the race’s biggest fundraising hauls with a $50.5 million event in April. Read more.
  3. Trump and Biden have agreed on rules for their first debate. The presidential candidates have accepted that during the 90-minute debate their microphones will be muted when their opponent is talking. And unlike previous debates, there will be no studio audience. These changes come after Trump and Biden’s unruly 2020 debates that featured incessant interruptions and name-calling. Read more.

The Big Idea

Will RFK Jr. make the debate?

A week from Thursday, Biden and Trump will take the stage for the first of two general election debates. This Thursday, we’ll find out if Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will join them.

That’s the deadline for Kennedy — or any other independent or third-party candidate — to meet CNN’s qualification requirements. It’s a long shot, as Biden’s campaign reportedly informed CNN it would not participate unless it’s a one-on-one debate with Trump. That hasn’t kept Kennedy from trying. Kennedy is well on his way to meet CNN’s first requirement: receiving at least 15% in four different national polls approved by CNN. He already has three.

The second requirement, though, is much more difficult: Kennedy must be on enough state ballots to hypothetically reach 270 electoral votes in November’s election.

So far, Kennedy is just halfway there. In January, his campaign qualified for the ballot in Utah; since then, his campaign says it has qualified in seven other states: Michigan, California, Delaware, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Texas and South Carolina. That equates to 138 electoral votes.

Where major-party candidates are automatically placed on the ballot in all 50 states, independent candidates have to navigate each state’s unique deadlines and requirements — often some combination of signature-gathering and fees.

The Kennedy campaign claims it has submitted the requisite signatures in 14 additional states, pushing its electoral vote count to 304, well past the CNN threshold. But even after the campaign fulfills its end of the process, states are not required to process their application until the deadline for filing has passed — which, in many states, is not until fall.

In some states, Kennedy has sidestepped this complex process by seeking the nomination of political parties that already have ballot access. He flirted with the Libertarian nomination, but his appearance at the party’s national convention was met with boos. In California, he accepted the nomination of the American Independent Party; in Michigan, he is the Natural Law Party nominee.

The strategy could very well land Kennedy on enough ballots to hypothetically win the Electoral College this November. But doing so by Thursday seems like a stretch. In several of the 13 states where the campaign has submitted signatures, Kennedy is tangled in lawsuits. In New York, the DNC is backing a lawsuit claiming fraud in Kennedy’s signature-gathering process. In Nevada, Kennedy is suing the secretary of state after his application was declined for not including a vice president. (Kennedy submitted in Nevada before he announced Nicole Shanahan as his running mate.)

Kennedy, perhaps acknowledging that the ballot-access gambit is a long shot by Thursday, has resorted to a new strategy: accusing Trump, Biden and CNN of “flagrant violations” of the Federal Election Campaign Act. By making Kennedy meet the ballot-access requirement, Kennedy argues, CNN is upholding a double standard, since neither Trump nor Biden will officially become their party’s nominees until the conventions later this summer.

On Thursday, we’ll find out if the gambit works.

What I’m reading

Trump is preparing for the debates in his own, typically unorthodox fashion. Trump reportedly foregoes many of the traditional debate prep tricks, like role playing. Instead, he has held a series of meetings with lawmakers and policy experts to get him up to speed on the issues. One of his most recent meetings was with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., whose name has been floated as a potential vice presidential pick. Trump Participates in His Form of Debate Prep, Readying to Face Biden (Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, The New York Times)

Trump’s vice presidential pick of Mike Pence was calculated to court conservative evangelical voters in 2016. Now, these same voters seem less interested in who Trump’s potential running mate is than that the VP checks the boxes of being anti-abortion, young and maybe representing a different ethnicity than the former president. That’s more than Pence himself has to say about the subject. ‘Who’s the Black guy?’: Evangelicals want Trump to pick an anti-abortion running mate. They care less who it is. (Adam Wren and Megan Messerly, Politico)

Many Americans are skeptical of Trump’s conviction, but their doubt doesn’t look like it will help Trump get reelected. A third of political independents say Trump’s guilty verdict in the New York criminal trial makes them less likely to support Trump. More than 1 in 5 of these independents — who will likely play a key roll in deciding which way swing states tilt — said Trump’s conviction was an important factor to their presidential vote. New Polling Shows the Real Fallout From the Trump Conviction (Ankush Khardori, Politico Magazine)

Tuesday trivia

Last Tuesday’s question: The U.S. Treasury once printed a $100,000 bill — with which president’s image on it?

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The answer is Woodrow Wilson. The $100K bill was issued in 1934, at the peak of the Great Depression, to facilitate internal transactions between Federal Reserve banks. The National Museum of American History has one of the bills in its possession.

This week’s question, in honor of the upcoming debate:

Who was the last independent presidential candidate to participate in a general election debate?

See you on the trail.

Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.

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