On Friday, District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled that the Commission on Presidential Debates is a private entity and therefore cannot be forced to include third-party candidates like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. The Libertarians and Greens had filed the suit to eliminate the fifteen percent threshold which currently exists to preclude parties other than other Republicans and Democrats from participating. Johnson and Stein argued that any candidate on the ballot in enough states to win the election should be automatically included. The plaintiffs cited anti-trust statutes as the reason for the invalidity of the criteria.
However, Judge Collyer stated “This court could not require defendants to include plaintiffs in the debates because such an order would violate the First Amendment prohibition on forced speech and forced association.” Now, Stein and Johnson will each need to reach at least fifteen percent in an average of five national polls in order to earn a place on the stage. However, there is some indication that perhaps the Commission on Presidential Debates would be willing to give some leeway if a candidate is close enough.
Johnson, who is likely to appear on all fifty state ballots, has come extremely close to the threshold thus far. Though his average on RealClearPolitics is 8.0% (and 8.6% in a three-way race), he has scored in double-digits on multiple occasions, getting as high as 12% in a recent three-way FOX News poll and 13% in a four-way CNN poll. Johnson and his running mate William Weld have slowly earned more name recognition over the past several months and figure to come very close to the 15% mark when discussions begin on the topic of which candidates should be included.
That really and truly sucks. Both parties have valid candidates and are on the ballot. I have to say, if I was in charge of the debates, I’d invite them in anyway. What’s the harm in letting people know they have more options?
Oh, that’s right. It upsets the status quo.