The presidential debate lineup is set. And Gary Johnson isn’t on it.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Friday that it has invited only Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to compete in the first general-election contest, on September 26. Though not entirely unexpected, the announcement is a significant blow to Libertarian Party nominee Johnson, the third-party candidate with the biggest chance to make an electoral impact this year. He’s spent months, if not years, publicly campaigning to get himself on the stage, arguing that debates are crucial to legitimizing his candidacy and to eliminating the two-party stranglehold on American politics. But with Friday’s announcement, Johnson is forced to sit out one of the most significant national events of the year.
Though he’s not alone: Green Party nominee Jill Stein also did not qualify under the commission’s stringent criteria, which require candidates to average at least 15 percent support in select national polls. As the commission noted Friday, Johnson averaged 8.4 percent in those polls, with Stein averaging 3.2 percent. The libertarian always had more of a shot, though, in making the stage—he’d polled into the double digits in recent months, and was hoping the commission would give an inch if he showed a late-breaking surge. However, in the five polls the commission used to determine the lineup, his average wasn’t enough. “The CPD may scoff at a ticket that enjoys ‘only’ 9 or 10 percent in their hand-selected polls, but even percent represents 13 million voters, more than the total population of Ohio and most other states,” Johnson said in a statement Friday. “Yet, the Republicans and Democrats are choosing to silence the candidate preferred by those millions of Americans.”