Will Trump’s Tape Help Gary Johnson Get Into the Last Debate?


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

Gary Johnson didn’t make the cut for tonight’s presidential debate, which leaves him with only one debate left. But is there any chance he’ll get in that one? His supporters are hoping that the latest news on Trump could somehow help out Johnson.

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 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 applied polls from mid-September 2016 for the first debate and applies later polls for subsequent debates. That’s why Johnson may still have a chance to make it into the 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 hasn’t polled nearly high enough. In the five polls that CPD uses, Johnson last polled at 7.4 percent, and Stein polled at 2.6 percent. At one point, Johnson was polling closer to 10 percent, but his numbers may have dropped once Stein was added.

Supporters Are Hoping Trump’s Leaked Tape Will Give Johnson a Boost in the Polls

If things kept on their current track, Johnson probably wouldn’t have much of a chance of getting into the third debate. But a recent recording was released showing Trump making very lewd comments about women 11 years ago, when he was speaking with Billy Bush. Trump does not plan to leave the race. But quite a few Republicans have either pulled their support from Trump or are calling on him to drop out. (See Heavy’s article with the full list here.) On top of that, the RNC has pulled Victory project support for Trump, at least temporarily.

Johnson’s supporters are hoping this could be the chance for Johnson to step in. Some supporters hope that when people are polled after this latest news about Trump, they will poll in higher numbers for Johnson, giving him a chance at taking the stage in the finale debate. As a Johnson supporter on Reddit said: “I can see Johnson likely bumping up to at least 12% after this. I think that is a reasonable number so I’m hoping I’m likely proven wrong and see an even higher number of people flocking to Johnson after Trump’s tape came out. Looking back, what single one of Johnson’s gaffes is anywhere near as bad as what Trump said and had done?”

Johnson’s supporters are also hoping that if more Republicans pull support from Trump, this might open the door for some Republicans to switch their endorsement to Johnson instead, which might put pressure on CPD to allow Johnson into the debate. Johnson posted about the possibility of picking up Republican endorsements:

Even if Johnson picks up a lot of Republican support now, there’s no precedent for CPD to break its 15 percent requirement. More than likely, CPD will still hold fast to that rule and Johnson’s only way into the debate will be to hit those poll numbers. But even if he doesn’t make it into the final debate, his supporters hope that the Trump controversy will give him a real shot at winning electoral votes come November. If neither Trump nor Clinton got the majority, the House would pick the winner from among the three candidates with the most electoral votes. Some Johnson supporters reason that if Trump made enough Republicans angry before that time, then perhaps a Republican-controlled House would give the win to Johnson.

This is all highly controversial and the chances of a Johnson win, at least according to current poll numbers, is incredibly slim. Trump supporters believe this would never happen and Trump still has enough momentum to win. And Clinton supporters believe the conjecture doesn’t matter because she’d get a majority of electoral votes anyway. Only time will tell.

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