The two major party candidates recently squared off in the first of three presidential debates, leaving out third party candidates like Libertarian Gary Johnson. To some, this isn’t fair and believe he should be included.
In order to qualify for the debates, candidates have to pass a few criteria, one of them being their poll numbers are at least at 15 percent.
Johnson doesn’t have those numbers and thus didn’t participate in the first debate. If his poll numbers remain where they are, he also won’t be participating in the remaining ones. There is one Tuesday, October 4, for the vice presidential nominees and still two more for the presidential nominees.
Vice Chairman of the Alachua County Libertarian Party, Carl Horton, believes Johnson’s accomplishments already qualify him to be on that stage.
“Gary Johnson is actually on the ballot in all 50 states plus D.C., and to us, that is where the criteria should end,” Horton said.
Horton said Johnson could become a household name if he’s allowed to participate in the debates.
“Gary Johnson has around 10-13 percent support and he only has 30 percent name recognition. The debates have the opportunity to raise that name recognition up to 100 percent. If that were to happen, who knows, maybe he would win the election,” Horton said.
Kevin Baron, Civic Engagement Coordinator of the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida, believes that the third party candidates this election, including Gary Johnson, simply don’t have enough support to debate.
“In this particular election cycle, to get a bit more specific, neither Gary Johnson nor Jill Stein have the polling numbers to, I think, warrant the need to listen to them on stage,” Baron said.
Baron argued that in order to be relevant as a third party candidate, their parties have to be involved at all levels of government.
“Jill Stein and the Green Party, Gary Johnson and the Libertarian party, where have they been the last four years? If third parties were serious about making end-roads in this country, there’s a lot of politics that happens at the local, state and national levels in between presidential elections,” Baron said.
If Gary Johnson hopes to make the remaining debates, his national poll numbers will have to rise nearly three to five percent. For now, despite both Clinton and Trump polling at record low favorability ratings for major party nominees, will remain as the only two on the debate stage.
(Edited transcript from reporter Ramsey Touchberry at WUFT-FM 89.1)