Gary Johnson

Johnson/Weld to Debate Commission: Let Down Your 15% Threshold Just This Once

Libertarian candidates promise that if allowed to debate Sept. 26, they will earn their way thereafter


||| Johnson/Weld campaign
Johnson/Weld campaign

Libertarian Party presidential nominees Gary Johnson and William Weld took out a full-page ad in today's New York Times, addressing an open letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), the bipartisan if technically nonpartisan outfit that is scheduled to announce the Sept. 26 debate participants as soon as tomorrow (though likely a few days after). In the ad, the Libertarians point out that solid majorities of Americans want them up there on stage, that they are polling at 15 percent in 15 states, and that "The conditions of the presidential election of 2016 are extraordinary and without precedent."

(As if to underscore that last point, a new Sept. 8-13 Quinnipiac poll, which shows Johnson with a record-tying level of 13 percent support, also found that less than one-third of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump voters are doing so because they "like" their own candidate.)

The Johnson/Weld letter ends with this flourish:

Allow us to make our case to the American people. If, in the polls that follow, we fail to meet that 15% standard, we'll make no further efforts for inclusion in the subsequent debates.

Your board was empaneled to ensure fairness in the political process. This is an unparalleled moment in our nation's history and the eyes of the world are upon us all. We invite you to be on the right side of that history.

The CPD last month said it would announce the Sept. 26 finalists in "mid-September," which technically occurs midnight tomorrow. However, two of the five survey the commission selected to determine average polling numbers—CBS News/New York Times and NBC News/Wall Street Journal—haven't produced results in more than six weeks. Almost certainly, the debate commission will wait until those two polls come in. As mentioned here previously, Johnson would have to average 25 percent across both to meet the 15.0% threshold.

With the minutes to D-Day ticking down, and after nearly four months (including today at the Detroit Economic Club) of repeating that "To win we have to be in the presidential debates," Johnson and his campaign are lunging desperately for any available stick.

Bill Weld has been warning all month that the debate commission could "lose their tax exempt status" if they don't let the Libertarians in, a threat that Campaign Manager Ron Nielson slyly alludes to near the close of his let-them-debate op-Ed in today's L.A. Times: "The CPD, a private tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, has the opportunity to do the right thing." (Keep in mind that the Libertarians were plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the commission as recently as last month.) CPD co-chair Mike McCurry, meanwhile, shot back a week ago that changing the "pre-established criteria" at this late date could put the commission in legal jeopardy, though it's hard to imagine exactly who would sue. Johnson did score some nice points, however, by snagging a debate-inclusion endorsement by an actual commission member, former Indiana governor and current Purdue University President Mitch Daniels. (Daniels was also quite generous in holding a public Q&A with Johnson last night at Purdue, attended by around 1,000 people, about which more stay tuned to this space.)

The campaign is also trying to work the refs—using argumentation of dubious quality—when it comes to the way the polls themselves are being conducted and received. Nielson in his piece today complained that the CPD's Big Five polls "often restrict themselves to head-to-head match-ups between Trump and Clinton," which just flat-out isn't true. Johnson in Detroit today complained at some length that his name has never been listed as the first option on a national poll, and that this has skewed results. PolitiFact looked at this claim in late August, and judged it "false," finding that:

Eleven of the [25] polls we looked at—close to half—included Johnson in their first or only question about the presidential horse-race. None of these polls vaulted Gary Johnson to 20 percent. In fact, he did slightly worse, on average, when he was included in the first horse-race question.

The debate-desperation is beginning to seep over into the pro-Johnson SuperPAC world as well:

If all these Hail Marys fail to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, the campaign has been preparing the way for counter-programming outside the debates. That would depend on stoking outrage among the press and the public over the system being so obviously rigged. To that extent, Nielson makes perhaps the best argument of the lot:

There is also precedent to consider. In 1992, H. Ross Perot polled well through early summer when matched up against then-President George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. After he temporarily dropped out of the race, his numbers plummeted, and by the time he got back in he was only at 7 to 9% in national polls. (That's lower than Johnson by most accounts.) Nevertheless, he was invited to participate in the debates, and he went on to win 18.7% of the popular vote. If voters had not been given the opportunity to see him go head to head with the standard bearers of the obsolete two-party system, he would never have gone so far.

Shouldn't Johnson get the same chance?

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  1. “Your board was empaneled to ensure fairness in the political process.”

    Sheesh, I had hoped *Johnson* was going to tell the truth.

    1. The CPD’s official mission statement is to “provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners .”

      They are nakedly violating their own mission . Their arbitrary criterion should never be given a pass as anything other than the institutionalized corruption it is .

      1. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail,,,.,.,.,


  2. Quit grovelling, these guys have the *mission* of sidelining guys like you.

    Creative protests, alternate debate forums, live Youtube answers to debate questions…troll the shit out of the CPD until they become irrelevant.

    1. Or maybe they could try not trashing libertarian positions to side with the left.

      1. I’ve been fairly free with my criticisms. I’m not saying I’ll vote for them.

        But to the extent they have the potential to attack the duopoly, I am still #WithThem.

        1. That’s the thing though, it would not have been hard for theme to win your vote. Or mine. Or the scads of other anti-Trump conservatives. That was their best shot at 15%, and they wouldn’t have had to stray nearly as far from libertarian positions as they have in pursuing the center-left and MSM support that’s already in the bag for Hillary anyway.

          1. it would not have been hard for theme to win your vote. Or mine. Or the scads of other anti-Trump conservatives….

            Paradoxically, that wouldn’t ultimately be in our favor. Hear me out.

            I propose that the election result that gives the most liberty for the most of us, is for Hillary Clinton to lose. (Or Stein, but let’s get real here.) Not Hillary is a better result than any other. Therefore, if there should be a third party, and if that third party has no real shot of winning, then construct the third party so that it pulls more votes from Hillary’s side. Which is what the Johnson/Weld ticket does. It’s not a good ticket for libertarianism—seriously, when did the Libertarian Party be in favor of public accommodation laws?—but that doesn’t matter.

            The ticket is good enough to maybe, just maybe,get to the thresholds for public campaign money (and exposure) plus debate exposure. And it looks like it’ll torpedo Hillary’s chances more than help them. That’s better than a “purer” ticket, IMHO, where purity might get in the way of the preceding two good results.

          2. “Or the scads of other anti-Trump conservatives.”

            No. Clinton is a better fit for Anti-Trump conservatives than Johnson could ever be.

            1. Agreed. Somehow these guys failed to notice that Hillary is a better neocon than Trump or Johnson.

    2. “SHOW ME SOME JOHNSON!” ???

    3. Spineless grovelling has been his whole campaign strategy. Why stop now?

  3. Yes, I hope that Gary Johnson gets in the debates to educate the public about the horrors of religious freedom and freedom of association, and Weld to inveigh against gun rights. This is our chance for a libertarian moment, people.

    1. shhhhhhh, those things don’t matter because they’ve walked them back. However, Trump is the devil because he said some ridiculous things and then walked them back. But they’re different. Johnson/Weld may not be the Second Coming, but they’re the lesser of three evils, so you’re just a yokel republitarian if you don’t vote for them!


    2. I look forward to Gary Johnson getting into the debates so he can educate the world about the evils of climate change. His proposal for a carbon tax is excellent. If the cartoon Captain Planet gets remade, I fully expect a Gary Johnson character to go after evil corporations polluting Gaia with CO2.

      And when Hillary Clinton talks bout raising the minimum wage and Trump counters with paid maternity leave, Gary will be ready to pounce. Gary will one up them both with a guaranteed minimum income. Gary understands that government is just another name for things we do together. It’s not you or me, it’s we.

    3. I personally can’t wait to hear another rant about using the word ‘illegal’ versus ‘undocumented’.

    4. Don’t worry. Trump will wave the libertarian banner proudly: a border wall, mass deportations, higher spending, no entitlement reform, a bigger, badder military, bring back torture, spy on everyone. Feel the freedom!

      1. Thank you for bringing things into perspective for the haters.

      2. Don’t forget trade war with China, which is probably the single most disastrous thing Trump proposes.

  4. Johnson/Weld to Debate Commission: Let Down Your 15% Threshold Just This Once

    And break the rules?!? We have rules in place for a reason, and if we make an exception for you, WE’LL HAVE TO MAKE AN EXCEPTION FOR EVERYONE.

    You see? That’s what exception means: changing the rule for all time, and yet it will remain an exception. Logic.

  5. “Johnson/Weld to Debate Commission: Let Down Your 15% Threshold Just This Once”

    Uh-uh, no trophies for participation.

  6. Just heard a Gary Johnson commercial on the radio during Rush Limbaugh. It was hilarious on many levels. First, that it was explicitly speaking to “millennials” (not much of Limbaugh’s audience I’m afraid), second, that it didn’t say anything about Johnson other than that he wasn’t Democrat or Republican. It just as easily could have been a Jill Stein or Constitution Party ad.

    And he wonders why he can’t get 15%.

    1. I can’t believe someone with GayJay’s top-shelf political savvy could miss that big.

      *rolls eyes so hard they flip over*

    2. 30 seconds isn’t really enough to go in depth.

    3. He can’t get 15 percent in the polls because he gets 0.1 percent of the news coverage.
      The 15 percent standard is stupid.
      All Johnson needs to say is that he’s qualified (2 term governor) and he’s on the ballot.
      People want a third choice, here I am.

  7. “If voters had not been given the opportunity to see him go head to head with the standard bearers of the obsolete two-party system, he would never have gone so far.”

    And Matt wins the internet’s “Answer your own question” competition for today.

    1. Apparently the 2-party system wasn’t obsolete just then.

  8. Mike McCurry? When he isn’t busy rigging an election I assume he’s somehow lobbying against my freedom.

  9. CPD co-chair Mike McCurry, meanwhile, shot back a week ago that changing the “pre-established criteria” at this late date could put the commission in legal jeopardy, though it’s hard to imagine exactly who would sue.

    Nobody has to sue, the IRS can go after them independently. And McCurry is absolutely right — making an exception for one candidate would put their tax exemption on much shakier ground than adhering to an objective standard.

    1. But who is harmed by being more inclusive, rather than less?

      1. People who don’t want to be bored to death by FeyJay.

  10. Just add the rule that if you can get your name on the ballot in 50 states, you get in the debates.

    1. So Oklahoma can hold the debates hostage with its hostile ballot-access laws?

      1. And what if someone is recognized as a write-in candidate? Is that the same as being on the ballot?

      2. I prefer the ability to get to 270.

        1. ^ that. plus 3%

    2. Any candidates who are on the ballot in enough states to have mathematical possibility of winning should be in the debates. Any other standard is partisan.

      1. Mathematically, being on the ballot only in one medium-sized state means a possibility of victory – that is, they could mathematically take that state’s electoral votes, depriving the other 2 candidates of an electoral majority and throwing the election into the House where they will be mathematically capable of being elected.

        1. It could be any size state, not just a medium-sized one. 269+268+3 still throws it to the House. The likelihood of a candidate not from the party that controls the House, never mind not from one of the two major parties, being selected by the House is practically nil, however.

          1. Let’s pretend I knew how many total electors there were.


          2. The Republican dominated House hates the man who destroyed their national party, Trump.

            They would love to appoint a former Republican Governor to be President.

            1. House GOP would have to grow quite a pair to spit on the Deplorables like that.
              Unless Johnson won more EC votes than Trump.
              Too early in the day for that pipe dream?

        2. I said “mathematically”, not “pedantically”.

      2. Have to say that this seems like the decent way of deciding who gets to be in the debates. If you’re going to be on the ballet in enough states that you could potentially win, then you should be in the debates. It’s not for some biased bigwigs to decide whose voice is “worth” hearing on a big national level. How are Gary Johnson or Jill Stein supposed to meet that 15% threshold when the vast majority of the people haven’t the slightest clue who either of those two people are, because some biased bipartisan commission says they aren’t worth wasting the public’s time with, because the majority of the public doesn’t know they exist?

    3. 270 electoral vote access (not write-in) to show you have an actual campaign/party behind you, and 1 percent in the polls to show you’re not a crank or cult.

      1. Or say your poll numbers have to be higher than your share of the media coverage.

  11. Johnson says, Just the tip.

    1. Just the first third.

  12. “Pretty please let me into the debates” is somewhere just under publicly begging for sex in the list of moves guaranteed to make you look pathetic to all outside observers.

    But hey. Live by the establishment media cred, die by the… well, you get the point.

    1. I’d prefer an attack ad quoting the League of Women Voters.

    2. the headline says 62 percent of Americans want him in the debates. He’s making the CPD look like bullies.

      1. If Gary and Jill aren’t in the debate I think the DOJ should be forced to issue a dear colleague letter to the all Public Universities and Schools banning the debates from being broadcast because they are excluding people which is a violation of the Title IX.

    3. Begging for sex would be the most libertarian thing Garry Johnson could do. That or yell “you aren’t the boss of me” at his dad. Is his dad even still alive though? Better off begging for sex if he wants to consolidate the liberatarian base. Or maybe he could make up stories about getting laid in high school that’s pretty libertarian too.

      1. Don’t forget trying to get people to believe you’re some sort of cowboy-construction worker-Navy SEAL from your air conditioned office while you contemplate the pros/cons of a standing desk.

  13. Sorry for the repost just in case anyone would like to see

    Here is the hillary clinton 20 questions tweet….parody or lacking self awareness? She is getting killed in the replies 776094652336369664

    Sorry not very computer savy…..omit the space

  14. Oh god, he used “right side of history.” I wouldn’t let him in just on principle, now.

    1. Yea i didnt like that phrase either.

  15. Johnson to the debate commission: Debate Commission! Tear down this threshold!

    1. Out of an abundance of caution, shouldn’t we ban bipartisan debate commissions?

  16. A part of me had hoped that the truly terrible quality of the candidates in this election cycle, their blatant lies, the media corruption, and the systems set in place to maintain the two party system would cause people to finally lose their faith in government and politicians. But from what I see and hear from acquaintances, this isn’t happening. Everyone keeps looking for the right TOP MEN.

  17. Yeah.

    They’re screwed.

  18. Desperation, Hail Mary’s yes that will be quite enough. Sit tight. In 12 days fans of GJ will be pleased they didn’t have a podium, as DT and HRC will sink further. Imagine if Weld is subsequently invited to the Oct 4 VP debate.

  19. GayJay should sue the presidential debate commission for discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

    1. Debates are a ‘black hole’

  20. Gary was just endorsed by the most influential paper in NH, The Union Leader.

    First time in its history they endorsed a non-Republican.

    Three major newspaper endorsements in less than two weeks ( Va, NC, NH).

    More to come in next 6 weeks.

  21. We need Gary Johnson there! Can you imagine the exchanges!

    Clinton: Citizen United is bad
    Gary Johnson: She’s a fine public servant

    Clinton: We need more gun control
    Johnson: We need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, you guys

    Clinton: Churches need to pay for other people’s birth control and abortions
    Johnson: Religious liberty is a black hole, you guys. Seriously

    Clinton: I will appoint the most progressive judges ever
    Johnson: Breyer is a super great judge, you guys.


    1. Clinton: free college, free medical care, big military, more wars, beef up Social Security.
      Trump: bigger military, who do we bomb first, i’ll fix the economy so much, Social Security will be fine.
      Johnson: cut spending by 20 percent.

      You make the call.

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  24. 15 percent is crazy high. 1 percent is high enough in the primary debates to keep out the riff raff.

    1. No . Access on all ballots is the only defensible criterion .

  25. “Your board was empaneled to ensure fairness in the political process.”

    No, it fucking wasn’t. Its entire purpose is to make damned sure that no Ruling Party hack ever has to face another Ross Perot.


    1. The rank partisanship by the Demublicans is why the League of Women Voters opted out of sponsoring the debates several cycles ago the Demublican duopoly made it impossible for LWV to be neutral. The CPD should lose their 501c3 status. They shoudl be a 501c4 org – not for profit, but not contributing to the public good, so donations are not deductible to the giver.

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  27. “Your board was empaneled to ensure fairness in the political process.”

    Since our lawsuit charging that you are a corrupt cartel which is a tool of the major parties was thrown out, we’ll try brownnosing.

  28. The people in this country are getting a little tired of Media, RNC and DNC manipulating our elections. The elections are the last fallacy that we have a free society and if enough people finally realize that elections are just another scam the results may not be pretty.

    1. Don’t worry; Americans today are too effeminate for a revolution.

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  30. Begging-level desperation is one of the most unattractive traits a man can have. Ask any normal heterosexual woman; she’ll confirm what a turnoff it is.

    Besides, why does GayJay want to embarrass himself for an even bigger audience than he already has? You’ve repeatedly shown that you’re not ready for prime time, son.

  31. Just this once? I thought the whole point of selling out was to get the party into the debates going forward, not just Johnson. It’s not like his debate style is going to earn the LP another shot. His rise in the polls has nothing to do with him or Libertarianism. He’s merely benefiting from being the most viable non-Trump, non-Clinton alternative.

    The only benefit to having him in the debates is that it will draw more support away from Clinton. But that’s not worth trashing the LP label for. This seems to be more about appeasing Johnson’s ego.

    If they let him in, without the needed 15%, then I can only come to the conclusion that the establishment is indeed pushing Trump. If they keep him out, then they’re backing Hillary.

  32. Johnson should cut a deal with one of the other networks to give his solo responses, all within the time limits to all the questions posed to both candidates (noting if some are skipped or altered for relevancy considerations, and altering some (with note) to indicate how Q’s would have been altered if aimed at him.) It should be broadcast immediately after the debate so voters would have T&C’s responses fresh in their minds and would see how J stacked up against them.

    My guess is that within 48 hours he’d poll at close to 20%.

    Alternatively he could record it, releasing first to a major network and perhaps then to an INet provider or all of YouTube an hour, 5, 10, or 24 hours later.

    – Michael J. McFadden, Philadelphia PA

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