CNN reveals terms of June 27 presidential debate, Biden's choice of podium placement, and exclusion of RFK Jr.

 June 21, 2024

The campaigns of former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden previously reached an agreement to participate in a presidential debate on June 27, and the structure of that event is now beginning to take shape.

Thanks to a coin flip won by the Biden camp, he got to decide which side of the debate stage the candidates would appear on while Trump got to determine the order of closing statements by the participants, according to debate host CNN.

Separate but relatedly, it was also revealed that independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. failed to meet certain eligibility requirements set by the network to qualify as a participant in the debate.

Terms of the debate finalized

Per the CNN report, the Biden campaign won a coin toss that allowed it to choose either podium placement for the debate participants or the order of closing statements at the end of the debate.

Biden's team went with the first option and picked the podium on the left side of the stage, which would place the incumbent president on the right side of the screen for viewers. That meant the Trump team got to decide the order of closing statements and opted for the former president to go last and have the final word.

The debate will be hosted by network anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, and will last for 90 minutes with two commercial breaks -- during which the campaigns are prohibited from interacting with their respective candidates. Other established rules include microphones being muted except for when it is a candidate's turn to speak and a prohibition against props or prepared notes, though they will be allowed to have a pen, notepad, and a bottle of water.

Psychological advantages at play

The podium placement choice may seem trivial, but according to the Daily Beast there is a significant if subtle psychological reason for the Biden campaign's decision, and it all has to do with appealing to the viewers watching the debate at home.

Experts and studies have found that viewers' eyes are inherently drawn to the right side of a screen when two figures appear -- a "phenomena" displayed by virtually every late-night show or interview program in which the host appears on the right and their guests appear to their left.

The outlet further noted that the practice has its roots in royalty as the individual on the right appears "powerful" while their counterpart to the left appears "subservient," even if only subconsciously in the minds of viewers.

Yet, while Biden may gain a slight advantage with podium placement, the Daily Beast acknowledged that it is countered to an extent by the advantage Trump gains from having the final word in the debate by going last with his closing statement.

RFK Jr. excluded from CNN debate

ABC News reported that the finalization of terms for CNN's June 27 presidential debate also confirmed that independent candidate Kennedy would be excluded from the event after he failed to achieve the eligibility metrics laid out previously by the network.

At issue were the requirements of reaching 15% support in at least four major national polls and having ballot access in enough states to theoretically reach 270 Electoral College votes.

Kennedy only reached 15% in three national polls -- he averages around 7-10 points according to RealClearPolling and 538 -- and though his campaign claims to have gained ballot access in 23 states worth 320 electoral votes, CNN claimed it could only confirm that he would be on the ballot in six states worth 89 votes.

The Kennedy campaign has threatened to sue and already filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging collusion between CNN and the major party candidates to purposefully exclude him, though it seems doubtful that courts or the FEC will intervene on his behalf and compel the network to allow him to participate.

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