Even though the two leading candidates for President boast high unfavorable ratings (Clinton 54.9%, Trump 57.9%), two third party options have not been invited to participate in the first Presidential debate.
Clinton and Trump will square off for the first time head to head on Monday, September 26th.
The Commission on Presidential Debates released a statement Friday explaining their decision. There are three major criteria according to the CPD statement, which explains candidates can participate if they:
“1) are constitutionally eligible to hold the office of President of the United States; (2) have achieved ballot access in a sufficient number of states to win a theoretical Electoral College majority in the general election; and (3) have demonstrated a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate, as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recent publicly-reported results.”
While both Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein satisfy the first two requirements, they aren’t polling high enough combined to make the cut.
Some prominent libertarians, many of whom feel this is an opportune year, reacted on Twitter:
Debate Commission run by Rs and Ds just rejected @GovGaryJohnson from 1st debate, continuing corrupt 2-party system https://t.co/aemwFOJejh
— John Stossel (@JohnStossel) September 16, 2016
Johnson Supporters Plan "1,000 Man Protest" Against Debate Commission https://t.co/KIr9nhY7WE
— Austin Petersen (@AP4LP) September 15, 2016
While the 15% polling rule may not seem fair to libertarians, the CPD has been using the threshold since 2000. Sensing this outcome was inevitable, Johnson published an op-ed in U.S. News & World Report ahead of the ruling explaining why he should be allowed to join the debate stage.
“My running mate Bill Weld and I are two well-regarded former governors. We are the Libertarian Party candidates. Our support and name recognition is getting higher, as exemplified by the Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday. It shows our ticket at 13 percent nationally. This poll puts us within the margin of error for obtaining 15 percent nationwide. This poll further shows, as have other polls, that the majority of Americans want to see us on the debate stage.”
On August 15th, 2016 the CPD selected five polls to base their decision on. They chose ABC-Washington Post; CBS-New York Times; CNN-Opinion Research Corporation; Fox News; and NBC-Wall Street Journal.
Quinnipiac didn’t make the cut.