Gary Johnson, polls, and winning are in the same sentence, and no one saw this coming. Of course, the leader of the Libertarian Party is not winning the election in the latest polls, but he has captured the imagination of some members of the American public.
This might have something to do with his Google Gary Johnson campaign slogan or his hilarious memes. Polls released on Thursday showed that a large majority of voters want the former Governor of New Mexico to take part in the upcoming three presidential debates alongside Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
According to the Quinnipiac University poll, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all said that Johnson should be on the podium in the fall. To the question, “do you think that Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, should be included in the presidential debates this year, or not?” 56% of Republicans, 60% of Democrats, and 69% of Independents said yes.
63% of men and 61% of women want him to debate. 62% of whites and 62% of non-whites gave a positive response to the question.
Despite those positive numbers, his outstanding presence on social media, having ballot access in 44 states and his ability to captivate young people, it is unlikely that Johnson will be included in the debates this year. The reason? The Commission on Presidential Debates.
The commission handling this year’s debates announced the rules and thus far they are not favorable to Johnson. To be eligible for the 2016 general election debates, the candidate must have an average of at least 15 percent support with the five following pollsters ABC News/Washington Post, CBS-New York Times, CNN-Opinion Research Corporation, NBC-Wall Street Journal, and Fox News.
However, Johnson has not gone over 10 percent since June when pollsters started including him in surveys. Moreover, if Johnson does get to 15 percent, there will be a spot for him or Green Party nominee Jill Stein. Commission on Presidential Debates Co-Chairman Mike McCurry said:
“With [former Gov.] Gary Johnson polling in some places more than double digits, some of our production people may have said, ‘Just in case, you need to plan out what that might look like. We won’t know the number of invitations we extend until mid-September.”
Talking to CNBC’s John Harwood on Thursday, Johnson said he is hopeful. Here is the exchange:
JOHNSON: I do think there’s a better than 50 percent chance that we’ll be in the presidential debates. If we’re not in the presidential debates, hey, no chance of winning. No chance.
“I don’t have an issue with 15 percent. But shouldn’t the polls include my name on the top line? And shouldn’t it be reported top line? That’s my only issue. Fifteen percent? Not an issue.” -Gary Johnson on the polling threshold to join the presidential debates.
HARWOOD: Do you accept that the 15 percent threshold (to qualify for the debates) is going to hold?
JOHNSON: I don’t have an issue with 15 percent. But shouldn’t the polls include my name on the top line? And shouldn’t it be reported top line? That’s my only issue. Fifteen percent? Not an issue.
HARWOOD: Let’s say you get to 15 percent and you’re in the debates.
JOHNSON: We could win.
Experts believe that Johnson might still be a factor in the race.