Will Gary Johnson Be in the Next Presidential Debate?


Could Gary Johnson be in the next presidential debates? (Instagram/GovGaryJohnson)

Gary Johnson didn’t make the cut for the first presidential debate, and his supporters are angry and disappointed. But they’re not giving up. There’s still a chance that if the Libertarian presidential candidate gets enough attention, he might rise enough in the polls to make it into the second or third debate.

Here’s what you need to know.

Candidates Can Be in the Presidential Debates if They Poll at 15 Percent, and Johnson’s Around 7 to 10 Percent

CPD announced on August 15 which five polls it is using to determine presidential debate eligibility. They are:

  • ABC-Washington Post
  • CBS-New York Times
  • CNN-Opinion Research Corporation
  • Fox News
  • NBC-Wall Street Journal

If a third-party candidate shows support of at least 15 percent in an average of these five polls, that candidate will be able to participate in the general debate. CPD said that for the first debate, it will apply polls from mid-September 2016. It will then reapply criteria from newer polls for the second and third presidential debates. That’s why Johnson still has a chance to make it into the second or third debate.

According to the Commission on Presidential Debate’s rules, a candidate must meet several thresholds in order to be part of the general election debate. First, they must be on enough state ballots to have a “mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College.”

Second, a candidate must be supported by at least 15 percent of voters in five national public opinion polls. The rules don’t predetermine which polls are used. Instead, they state that they’ll be determined based on the “quality of the methodology employed,” the reputation of the polling organization, and the frequency that such polls are conducted. The 15 percent threshold was first adopted by CPD in 2000.

Unfortunately, thus far Johnson has polled as high as 10 percentage points, the Inquisitr reported, but he still has a long way to go before reaching 15 percent. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll (not one of the five determining polls) placed him at 7 percent when polled against Clinton, Trump, and Jill Stein. Stein got 2 percent.

Supporters Are Contacting Polling Organizations & Signing a Million-Strong Petition

Johnson and Stein supporters are contacting the polling organizations themselves, expressing their suggestion that Johnson be moved up in the polling questions and Stein be added to the polls. If you want to contact the polling organizations and express your concerns:

  • ABC-Washington Post: Email langerresearch at info@langerresearch.com
  • CBS-New York Times: Use their web contact form. We will include better contact information if it is found.
  • CNN-Opinion Research Corporation: Contact Page
  • Fox News: Contact the news manager at newsmanager@foxnews.com
  • NBC-Wall Street Journal: Use their web contact form. We will include better contact information if it is found.

Gary Johnson has the best chance so far of the third-party candidates for getting a podium in the general debate. It appears that the CPD is preparing for this possibility. Politico reported that the venues hosting the debates have drawn up plans for a three-person forum with a podium available for a third-party candidate. Mike McCurry, co-chair of the CPD, told Politico:

With Gary Johnson polling in some places more than double digits … some of our production people may have said, ‘Just in case, you need to plan out what that might look like. We won’t know the number of invitations we extend until mid-September.”

Johnson is also gathering signatures for a poll to try to convince the CPD to include him. You can sign the poll here, which already has over a million signatures.

Johnson Pulls Votes from Both Democrats and Republicans, Making Him a Strong Contender

Johnson certainly has a chance to be a big “upset” candidate to both sides in the general election. The Libertarian platform is fiscally conservative and socially liberal, which can draw in voters from both the Republican and the Democratic side, not to mention the 40 percent of American voters who identify as Independent.

Some believe that Johnson would simply spoil either Clinton or Trump’s chance at winning the election, giving the win to the other candidate. But surveys don’t back this up. Polls have shown that Johnson tends to take votes from both Democrats and Republicans equally. Reason.com shared statistics that indicated Johnson takes from both Trump and Clinton equally. Breitbart reported on June 1 that when Johnson was added to a Fox News poll, he took three percentage points from both Trump and Clinton.

According to The Wall Street Journal, a deep dislike for both Trump and Clinton is opening an opportunity for the right Independent candidate. About 55 percent of voters saw Clinton in a negative light, and 60 percent saw Trump negatively. These are the worst ratings of any Republican or Democratic nominee since 1992. And now the two candidates are practically neck-in-neck in the polls, leaving room for a third candidate to pull a big upset.