Gary Johnson

Presidential Debate Commission Criteria Is Both Good News and Bad News for Gary Johnson

Duopoly chooses five of Johnson's best-performing polls, but otherwise declines to relax its competition-stifling rules

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Credit—Paul Hennessy/Polaris/Newscom

Over at CNN, Brian Stelter breaks news that the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD)—the Republican/Democrat-controlled organization that has monopolized organization of the presidential debates since the 1988 election—has announced its criteria for inclusion in this fall's televised gabfests. First the bad news for Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and the Green Party's Jill Stein: Despite some extremely tentative and non-committal hints from CPD executives, the 15 percent threshold is still a 15 percent threshold, and "will be applied in mid-September" for the initial Sept. 26 debate, then reapplied before each debate after.

The good news for Johnson is that the five polls selected by the commission are some of the friendliest in the field for the Libertarian. They are:

* CBS-New York Times (11 percent average in four polls since June; high of 12%)

* Fox News (11% average in four polls, high of 12%)

* CNN-Opinion Research Corporation (10% average in four polls, high of 13%)

* NBC-Wall Street Journal (10% average in three polls, high of 11%)

* ABC-Washington Post (average and high of 8% in three polls)

So Johnson is starting from a base of 10 percent, which is certainly better than the 8.4 percent average he currently shows over at the RealClearPolitics polling page, and also the adjusted 9.0 percent he gets at FiveThirtyEight's polls-plus. If the CPD had instead chosen, say, Reuters-Ipsos, Economist-YouGov, PPP, Monmouth, and Rasmussen Reports, he'd be starting from a baseline of under 7 percent.

Though Jill Stein and her now 3 percent showing at the polls had no prayer anyway, she still could end up impacting whether her Libertarian counterpart gets in. How? Because Johnson's two most favorable polls here, Fox News and CBS-New York Times, currently do not include Stein as an option. Should they begin to, that may shave his performance just a tad. Conversely, if the other three polls in the basket stop including Stein, his numbers could go up.

Making it into the presidential debates has been the strategy for Gary Johnson and William Weld (along with some regional targeting, largely in the Mountain West). Since their lawsuit against the debate commission and its puppet-masters was tossed out of court earlier this month, that means they've got about a month to boost their polling support by 50 percent. As Emily Ekins wrote back in late June, you can squint your eyes and see the possibilities, but it's still a steep uphill climb.

NEXT: Gary Johnson Now Almost Certain to Get on Ohio Ballot as Independent

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  1. Because Johnson’s two most favorable polls here, Fox News and CBS-New York Times, currently do not include Stein as an option. Should they begin to, that may shave his performance just a tad.

    Fox might, but CBS won’t.

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  2. As if they won’t just re-jigger the criteria to exclude him even if GJ does get to 15%.

  3. Polls are complete and utter bullshit.

    If Johnson is on the ballot in some threshold number of states (40? 45?) he should be included in the goddam show.

    1. Rule should be whether they’re on the ballot in enough states to get to 270 electoral votes.

      1. Rule should be whether they are on the ballet in enough states to prevent anyone from getting 270 electoral votes.

        1. Rule should be when >50% of voters in these stupid polls want the candidate in the debates.

        2. Rule should be when >50% of voters in these stupid polls want the candidate in the debates.

    2. I listened to some Trump supporter go at it with a Clinton pollster over the weekend on some random cable show. The Trump supporter was getting pummeled by the Clinton pollster. The best she could mutter was that it’s August, not October. Towards the end she lost it.
      Her: Clinton is only polling 60% of the women vote. If it’s such a big deal that she’s the first women president, then why aren’t women supporting her, huh? 60%? That’s hit? She’s in trouble. Pffft. 60%. And and and and then there’s Johnson. Gary Johnson’s doing better and better in the polls. He should be in the debates. Yeah. Gary Johnson. Gary Johnson. So there. Clinton’s in trouble. Gary Johnson
      The Clinton pollster had a bewildered look on his face, mouth open, speechless.
      At that point the Trump supporter broke into her victory dance. Checkmate

    3. Agreed.

      When was the last time any of the lugheadded posters here answered the phone and took a survey?

      I contribute to Johnson’s low polling numbers because I don’t answer the phone when I don’t recognize the caller ID.

  4. * CBS-New York Times (11 percent average in four polls since June; high of 12%)

    * Fox News (11% average in four polls, high of 12%)

    * CNN-Opinion Research Corporation (10% average in four polls, high of 13%)

    * NBC-Wall Street Journal (10% average in three polls, high of 11%)

    * ABC-Washington Post (average and high of 8% in three polls)

    So close.

  5. Poll-plus findings are interesting: Clinton has slid almost as fast as Trump has over the past week despite no obvious missteps on her part. Curious to see if that trend continues as this week’s polls come out.

    What an awful candidate Hillary is. Trump has spent the last two weeks actively trying to throw the election and the public’s appetite for her just keeps getting weaker.

    1. Trump is the only person she could win against.

    2. Hillary’s terrible, and Team Stupid nominated the one candidate that she could beat.

      1. To be fair, Team Stupid didn’t really want him, but he brought in a bunch of new people into the tent, so…

        I honestly don’t know what to make of it all. Say what you will, the Democrats were able to bring their insurgent candidate to heel. And heel he did.

        1. Looks like Team stupid got…

          …hoist with its own retard.

          (??_?)

      2. I honestly believe she could have beaten Ted Cruz.

        Not because he’s as noxious a blunder machine as Trump, but because

        a) slight demographic advantage inherent to Dems in presidential year turnouts
        b) you could definitely run effective negative campaign ads that just consist of putting Cruz’s face onscreen for 30 seconds with no words.

        She’s still really bad though. Rubio or Kasich would have slaughtered her.

        1. Kasich is way too cornpone–“Golly gee, can you believe I’m standing here with all of you?”–but Rubio and Walker would have had a decent shot. Walker being the nominee would be worth it just for the lulz from the People’s Republics of Madison and Milwaukee.

          1. So angry Walker dropped out when he did. He barely made a splash to distinguish himself after 4-6 years of making WI dem lives hell.

            And Rand Paul. Where was he?

            They were the R superstars for this election that have been talked up for the last 8 years (as was Rubio and Carson). Where were they???

            1. I agree that Walker’s early exit was a disappoint. One of the problems with such a long campaign season: you gotta have a lot of money to pay staffers for that many months. He would have been great in a 6 month campaign.

              As for Rand, he seemed really reluctant to run. He came off as more of a curmudgeon than his dad, and that’s saying something! Maybe he’ll come around. Or maybe he’s better off (and we are?) with him making noise in the senate.

              I look forward to voting for Amash as president within the next 20 years.

        2. also with Cruz you would have had lawsuits and distractions about him not actually being born in the US. I never really heard a definitive ruling on that.

  6. I hope Gary gets to 15% but it won’t matter, there will be no debates. Maybe the veeps will go at it but neither Trump or Clinton have anything to gain from a debate. Either Trump will claim some nebulous mistreatment or bias and walk or He’ll say something so distasteful about Clinton that she will refuse to be on the same stage with him.

    1. I agree with this. I think the only way debates happen is by regularly calling Trump a pussy.

  7. Why not campaign against the CPD itself? They sure deserve it.

    “Of course my opponents don’t want a fair election, so they take part in a debate which has been rigged on their behalf by the two major parties, through a front group.

    “This is why Americans are disgusted by the political system, and I don’t blame them.

    “My opponents are chickens – and they’ve laid a rotten egg.”

    1. “That’s why, on my Website, running opposite the CPD ‘debate,’ I will be hosting my own nude Jello-wrestling event, and I call on all patriots to watch it.”

      1. Gary Johnson nude Jello wrestling? Umm…. no.

        1. Hey, you’re not supposed to judge or criticize during the brainstorming session!

      2. I’m sure we can find several attractive folks who are “putting themselves through college” who would be willing to undertake this promotion.

        1. Pornhub to hold the alternate debate?

          1. More users are on Pornhub daily than watch the past three Super Bowl’s combined. So, yes, the fan base is definitely there.

            The Libertarian party should be running ads on Pornhub that say, “Vote this Johnson into the White House”. The click-through would be fantastic!

              1. You deserve credit for the alley-oop.

            1. God No. I know if I saw Johnson or Welds face pop up before I started viewing my porn it would just ruin it for me. You don’t want to be the party that broke Pornhub.

            2. You ever worked on a political campaign? You’re hired. Make sure to incorporate his tagline “U in” in there please. #FeeltheJohnson

  8. “The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD)?the Republican/Democrat-controlled organization that has monopolized organization of the presidential debates since the 1988 election”

    So there are no Libertarians on the commission?

    We need to prepare ourselves. This is like suing some small town in Georgia where the jurors are all made up of city employees, and the city employees are all related by marriage to the defense attorney, the sheriff, and the judge.

    I don’t see why Trump would want Johnson in the debate, and I can’t imagine why Hillary would want swing voters to see that there’s a viable Non-Trump alternative to Corruptosaurus Rex.

    I certainly wouldn’t expect the debate commission to be any more trustworthy than the DNC.

    If the DNC was led by people who were really working for Hillary’s campaign, you might think the debate commission is even more under the candidates’ control–since if there’s anything that Hillary and Trump really agree on, it’s probably that Johnson needs to be kept out of the debates.

    In pure strategy gamesmanship, the Commission would probably ask for forgiveness rather than permission. Go ahead and sue them. By the time your suit gets anywhere, the debates will be over. They’ll probably let Johnson debate the Green candidate–you know, separate but equal.

    1. No doubt they’ll be uncooperative if he’s at 14.6% average.

      That said, I think he’s gotten enough media attention on the climb to 15 that if he’s indisputably at 15.5%+, the CPD will go along with it. And if they don’t, that might even be better for Johnson, if he can make enough of a stink about it. (Example: media coverage of Rand Paul being cut out of R debate was probably more than coverage of all his actual debate appearances combined)

      1. Even if he makes the 15%, they’ll probably deny him.

        Don’t assume fair play or that anyone but the people getting screwed care about fair play.

        Winning elections isn’t about fairness. I mean, it’s about that to good Americans everywhere.

        But to the people who are campaigning, It’s also about lying, stealing, cheating, and stuffing the ballot box.

        There isn’t anyone in either the Trump campaign or the Hillary campaign that will ever lose a moment of sleep over Gary Johnson being treated unfairly.

  9. The Bad News: Johnson won’t be in the debates.

    The Good News: Johnson won’t be in the debates.

    1. All he has to do is not behave as badly as Trump and not come across as evil as Hillary to score points with the undecided.

      Let’s fact it. The undecideds at this point are mostly morons, and they’re the ones who will be choosing our next President.

      Even if you think Gary is a moron, sometimes it takes a moron to really get inside a moron’s head.

      If Johnson went to the debates and just yelled the word “bullshit” every time Hillary said something that wasn’t true, he might pick up two percentage points.

      1. If Johnson went to the debates and just yelled the word “bullshit” every time Hillary said something that wasn’t true, he might pick up two percentage points.

        He should do this even if he isn’t invited to be on stage.

        1. Hell, that’s what i’ll be doing in my living room, should i decide i hate myself enough to watch the debate at all.

  10. Gary Johnson needs to give a well-written, well-staged Major Foreign Policy Speech now!

    Foreign policy/national defense is the main issue/excuse for Republicans to dismiss the Johnson/Weld ticket.

    Gary Johnson needs to make the case how libertarian foreign policy/national defense will “make America safer/stronger”, beyond his talking points against regime change, unintended consequences etc

    1. To be fair, Johnson making a round of major speeches (on foreign policy, on free trade, etc) would actually be incredibly helpful ? both to give him more coverage in the media as well as allowing potential voters to get a concise sense of where he and Weld stand on such issues. Something that I’ve noticed among both writers and comment-sectioneers alike at political sites (mainly conservative ones, but a few on the Left as well) is an un-surety over what exactly Johnson’s (and by extension the broader LP) position on issues are. As a result, conversations tend to revert to jokes about pot and fat-man strippers for lieu of stated policies. While a lot of the Johnson/Weld campaigning is necessarily cheap and low-key, it wouldn’t cost him much to talk to the National Press Club or to set up a key trade speech in some place with good economic optics. As a result, the press would be talking substantially about his ideas instead of merely writing pieces on polling issues ? that, as much as anything, would get the campaign into the public eye.

      1. Yes, exactly. It would also give Johnson more developed talking points to use in interviews, material to use ads, opportunities for surrogates to follow up with opinion pieces, etc.

  11. Will they add the margin of error ?

    1. Subtract the margin of error? Definitely. Add it? Good one

  12. Is Gary going to start like, advertising anytime soon? Do you see him on any of your airwaves or TV’s?? Nothing here in Iowa and everyone hates Hillary and trump here

    1. The only ad I’ve seen so far here in SC is the Hillary one with Letterman grilling Trump about where his clothing line is manufactured. Now I just think Letterman is an asshole and a hack.

      1. Yes, that is the only one I see here played in Iowa… I think it just makes people not like letterman.. didn’t seem too effective..

  13. Time for Johnson to stand up and be counted.

  14. So the debates are gonna prominently display a cunt and an asshole, but no Johnson?

    1. This comment wins the Internet.

    2. The character in Team America that talked about the three types of people has the name, “Gary Johnston”. Suspiciously close.

  15. I am not sure what to make of a campaign whose central strategy is using the courts to muscle their ways into a private event, instead of something that does not rely on dubious legal assertions. Seems like you have a baked in excuse for failure.

    1. I am not sure what to make of a campaign whose central strategy is using the courts to muscle their ways into a private event, instead of something that does not rely on dubious legal assertions. Seems like you have a baked in excuse for failure.

      More fun with free association snafus? (you even said “baked in”…mmm…cake…)

  16. I find Johnson’s constant refrain of “I can’t win unless I get into the debates!” bothersome. It basically gives the establishment a target to aim against, and polls are a lot easier to manipulate than actual votes.

    1. And if he doesn’t get into the debates, he’ll have to explain why he’s still running after he said he can’t win.

      1. He already knows he won’t win. Even if he doesn’t win, that doesn’t mean that positive changes won’t result from many people voting for him.

    2. He hasn’t had any chance at the winning the election so far. Even if it’s still a struggle, getting into the debates is a more modest goal. If he manages to achieve that, Johnson is suddenly a sports story, and gets a bump in coverage from that. He’s running an unlikely race, so his only choice is to limit the campaign focus.

      I think he’s played this election pretty smart so far. Having been dealt a shit hand at the political table, you gotta admit he’s been running with it. So far Johnson has done more for the modern LP in an election than any of the other goofy LP bastards or Republican Paultards we’ve seen ballyhooed so far. It could be argued that he’s doing a solid job of establishing a base for the party and future elections. Whatever happens in November, more people are going out knowing that the LP is a far saner alternative than the giant douche and turd sandwich parties. It’s the LP’s time to start investing on these modest gains. Any growth is hard fucking work, so we should remember to throw Johnson a bone.

      1. The Republican Party and Democrat Party did more to boost Libertarian numbers than Johnson did. Most newcomers to vote L this cycle were watching the L Convention with bated breath to see what their Trump/Hill alternative would be.

        You are capitalizing on the destruction of the R party and the Paulification of Bernie.

  17. The good news for GayJay is the presidential debate commission won’t let him make a babbling fool of himself on a national stage.

    1. True. Trump already has that covered.

    2. Arr! Arr! Arrr!

  18. Wait, so the 15% number doesn’t take into account how many people are in the poll? Let’s just run 100 people in a poll and prevent anyone from getting 15% and skip the debates entirely.

  19. If you think the sheeple will be logical and vote in a Libertarian President and Vice President, then you have another think coming. The dumbing down of America is pretty much complete. Besides, what could a Libertarian President get done with a Congress and Supreme Court who have no idea what inalienable rights are and the true limits of the U.S. Constitution?

    1. The dumbing down of America is pretty much complete.

      Is there a new Dumb and Dumber movie?

  20. Clinton the war monger is afraid to debate Johnson.

  21. So…they’re screwed. Dangit.

  22. Attacking the CPD will do no one any good. They were invented precisely to absorb whatever complaints anyone might have about the Reps/Dems controlling the debates. They are professional ‘we don’t care’ people.

    There are two potential vulnerable parties. 1) the universities that ‘host’ the debates, and 2) the media that cover them.

    1) The universities are thoroughly corrupt. Count the number of times Washington University has ‘won’ the right to host. Since it was thoroughly exposed in 2012 that the ‘National Sponsors’ have NEVER given ANY money to the CPD, the new smokescreen is that the universities each pay $1.5 million for the privilege of hosting. Rubbish. The checks might be written, but the universities receive more than the equivalent in extra ‘backdoor’ donations that are impossible to trace in a 501(c)3 private university.

    Attack the universities, gain the support of their own students (few of whom are probably knowingly corrupt), and get the students to shut down the debates themselves.

    2) The media has been flagrantly culpable since the CPD stole the debates from the League of Women Voters. Why do they broadcast the debates for free? Huh? Huh? They have been lap dogs, not attack dogs, while the CPD has played their own game almost perfectly.

    Personally, I think the universities are the weak point. They have trustees. They don’t like scandal. Let’s give it to them …

    #shamdebates #shame #HofstraU and #LongwoodU and @wustl and @unlv

  23. America is not ready for a mass-debating Johnson on national TV.

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  25. I can’t understand how any libertarian, who has even seen Johnson debate, would want to put him forth as the first LP candidate to participate in a general election debate. What on earth could they possibly believe that will gain us?

  26. Legal experts have suggested that if Congress has the power to require individuals to buy health care insurance, it may also mandate that Americans buy broccoli. Legal experts have suggested that if Congress has the power to require individuals to buy health care insurance, it may also mandate that Americans buy broccoli. Legal experts have suggested that if Congress has the power to require individuals to buy health care insurance, it may also mandate that Americans buy broccoli. – – – – ????? 2017????? 2017

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