CNN/ORC this morning came out with its first national presidential poll in more than month, and the results are terrible for Gary Johnson's fading hopes of getting into this fall's presidential debates. The Libertarian nominee pulled just 7 percent in the survey, down from 9 percent in the same poll at the end of July, and 13 percent—his highest-ever showing nationwide—two weeks prior to that.
CNN/ORC is one of the Big Five national polls that will be averaged by the technically nonpartisan, effectively bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) in "mid-September" to assess which candidates will be taking part in the initial Sept. 26 event. Since another of the Big Five, Fox News, dropped a 9-spot on Johnson last week, that means that the other three polls would need to average 19.7 percent for Johnson to get to the unreasonably high 15 percent threshold. As it stands now, if the CPD were making its decision today, the Libertarian nominee would be at 8.8 percent across the selected five polls. Which, while being the most impressive third-party showing since Ross Perot in 1992, would still fall far short.
The Johnson campaign, which has thrown all its eggs into the get-into-the-debates basket, signaled a shift in public relations strategy last Thursday when vice presidential nominee William Weld warned that the CPD could be stripped of its tax-exempt status if he and Johnson are left on the outside looking in. "They can play favorites," Weld told Politico. "They would lose their tax exempt status if they did that. And saying 'we're only going to have an 'R' and a 'D' we're not going to have the third party Libertarians even if everyone wants them,' I think their tax exempt status would be in jeopardy and I think they know that….You know when the commission was set up something like 30 percent of the voters were Independents and now that's climbing toward 50 percent….So the rationale for having only an 'R' and only a 'D' is dissipating."
The campaign is also pouring $3.8 million into ads that will run this week, the Washington Times reports.
On Meet the Press over the weekend, Democratic presidential primary runner-up Bernie Sanders said that the CPD's 15 percent threshold is "probably too high." A spate of recent national polls show that Americans agree, including a Suffolk University/USA Survey last week showing 76 percent of Americans desiring third-party candidates be included in the debates. Unless that broad sentiment is converted into fantastical amounts of political pressure over the next two weeks, or one of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump suddenly demand his inclusion, Johnson almost certainly will not make it into the first presidential debate.