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RFK Jr. loses in first round of Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination vote. Trump didn’t file paperwork to qualify

<i>Bastien Inzaurralde/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>
Bastien Inzaurralde/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

By Aaron Pellish, CNN

Washington, DC (CNN) — Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was eliminated from contention for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination during the party’s convention Sunday.

In a surprise move earlier Sunday, Kennedy was put up for consideration as a nominee to represent the party in 2024. But he received support from just 19 delegates, or 2.07%, in the first round of voting and was eliminated. Political activist Chase Oliver ultimately won the Libertarian presidential nomination Sunday night at the convention in Washington, DC, after seven rounds of voting.

Kennedy, who spoke at the convention on Friday, was nominated by a delegate Sunday on the convention floor, where his candidacy was met with boos from other delegates.

Donald Trump was also nominated on the convention floor Sunday, but Libertarian Party Chair Angela McArdle ruled that the former president did not qualify because he did not submit nominating papers. Trump spoke Saturday at the convention, where he was loudly and consistently booed, particularly when he asked attendees to “nominate me or at least vote for me.”

Trump received votes from six delegates as a write-in candidate. In a rebuke of the former president, adult film actress Stormy Daniels – whose alleged affair with Trump is at the center of his hush money trial in New York – received a vote from one delegate. (Trump has denied the affair and pleaded not guilty in the case.)

Candidates who received less than 5% of the vote were eliminated in the first round. In each subsequent round, the candidate with the lowest vote total was eliminated.

After Kennedy’s elimination, he urged Libertarians to back his campaign even though “we may not agree on every downstream issue.”

The independent hopeful said in a social media post Sunday that addressing the convention was “a high point of my campaign.”

“What an unexpected honor to wake up this morning to a groundswell in the Libertarian Party seeking to nominate me. I would have accepted the nomination if offered because independents and third parties need to unite right now to reclaim our country from the corrupt two-party system,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy told CNN last week that he did not intend to seek the party’s nomination at the convention this weekend.

Tim O’Brien, a Libertarian delegate from New Jersey, said he felt Kennedy was trying to use the party for his own gain without respecting its values.

“We’ve had a lot of people come into the party, they’ll run, they’ll make a big stink and then leave. And I guarantee you, he may come here; he’s not going to be here after the election,” O’Brien said.

“We want people that are willing to say, full force, ‘We’re Libertarians, we’re staying with you guys,’” he added. “He has no need for us. He wants to get ballot access.”

Kennedy, a onetime Democrat, began courting Libertarian officials even before he left the Democratic presidential primary last fall to run as an independent. He met with McArdle in July and February to discuss their shared beliefs.

The Libertarian ticket was seen as a possible pathway for Kennedy to circumvent ballot access hurdles and take advantage of the party’s access to ballots in dozens of states. Kennedy is on the ballot in six states so far, compared with 38 states for the Libertarians.

Kennedy’s running mate, Nicole Shanahan, told CNN on Sunday that the Libertarian Party was “more relevant than ever” and that “there’s a great deal of possibility of success of us working together.” The Silicon Valley attorney and entrepreneur’s comments marked the first time she has taken questions from a major news outlet since she joined Kennedy’s campaign in March.

Shanahan had been expected to make remarks at the convention Sunday but said she ultimately did not as party votes were running behind schedule.

On Monday, she shared on social media the text of the speech she had expected to give. Her planned remarks included telling the audience that Covid-19 vaccines were “unsafe” and “ineffective” and pledging to protect civil liberties from government and corporate overreach.

“The reason why a candidate like Bobby Kennedy can win this next election is because he is the only candidate who has successfully fought the institutions and corporations that have stolen our right to health and liberty. He understands the deeply troubling, almost demonic forces that have overtaken our agencies, and our culture,” the prepared remarks read.

“The vaccine mandates that spread across the globe in 2021 were wrong, not only because the vaccines were unsafe, and not only because they were ineffective. They were wrong because they deprived us of the most basic liberty there is,” the prepared remarks continued.

Covid-19 vaccines have proved to be safe and effective.

Shanahan’s planned speech also made multiple references to former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who previously ran for president as both a Libertarian and a Republican.

Kennedy told CNN last week following a rally in Colorado that his views on the environment, foreign policy and Covid-19 would appeal to Libertarian voters.

“My approach is a free-market approach, which appeals to Libertarians,” he said. “I’m against war, which I think is another important issue for Libertarians. I support constitutional rights. President Trump dismantled our constitutional rights during Covid. So I think Libertarians are probably more inclined to support me if they follow their philosophies.”

Trump and Kennedy in recent weeks have ramped up their attacks on each other, as the former president’s advisers increasingly come to see the independent’s bid as a potential problem in an election expected to be decided by a narrow margin in a handful of states.

Kennedy’s support in national surveys has reached double digits – at 16% in a CNN poll conducted last month by SSRS – with strong indications that he is siphoning support from both Trump and President Joe Biden.

As the threat has crystalized, so have Trump’s attacks on Kennedy. The former president now regularly attacks Kennedy in public remarks and on social media. Earlier this month, Trump released a lengthy video that labeled Kennedy a “Democrat plant.”

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Steve Contorno and Jack Forrest contributed to this report.

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