Could Gary Johnson be in the presidential debates? (Instagram/GovGaryJohnson)
Will Gary Johnson be in the debates with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? The third party candidate is rising in the polls and is poised to shake everything up. He only needs to reach 15 percent in national polls in order to get a place on the debate stage. With Trump and Clinton among the most disliked candidates in history, it’s possible that this year could be Gary Johnson’s chance to shine.
Here’s what you need to know.
Candidates Can Be in the Presidential Debates if They Poll at 15 Percent Nationally
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.
According to the CPD, the participants in the first scheduled debate will be determined after Labor Day, but far enough in advance of the debate to allow for planning.
Johnson Is Already Reaching Double Digits in Some Polls
In the latest Wall Street Journal poll, Gary Johnson polled at 10 percent, even with Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, being included and polling at six percent. In a Ballotpedia poll of individual states, Johnson polled at 16 percent in Iowa and 10 percent in North Carolina. He polled in double digits in all seven states that were surveyed.
In a survey of nine states by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, the numbers were: Clinton 45%, Trump 38% and Johnson 11%. Johnson polled better than Trump with African Americans, and he’s pulling 4 percent from Clinton and 3 percent from Trump. If Johnson keeps this momentum going, he could be a strong contender come November.
If Jill Stein weren’t included in some of the polls, Johnson would likely be polling higher. In fact, some polls that did not include Stein already showed Johnson getting closer and closer to the 15 percent mark. The Libertarian party is currently on the ballot for 33 states, but Johnson said that by the time the general election happens, they’ll be on the ballot in all 50. As of June 2016, the Green Party is on the ballot in 20 states.
Johnson told The Wall Street Journal that he’d be polling at 20 percent if the polls looked at only him, Trump, and Clinton. He mentioned that many polls still don’t mention his name at all or only include his name in a second question about alternate candidates.
Johnson doesn’t have that much farther to go in order to reach the 15 percent threshold for taking part in the general election debate. The last time a third-party candidate was in the debates, it was Ross Perot in 1992.
Johnson Pulls Votes from Both Democrats and Republicans, Making Him a Potentially 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. And this is before his name recognition grows.
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.
Right now, some of the people choosing Johnson in the polls are likely using him as the “none of the above” choice. But if he could get into the general debates, his name recognition would increase and so, likely, would his status in the polls. With people seeing the main candidates in such a negative light, this leaves the door open for Johnson to possibly stage an upset for both sides of the campaign.