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Presidential Debate 2012: Gary Johnson Support Grows, Sponsors Pull Out to Protest Exclusion of Libertarians

Both President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee are gearing up for their first presidential debate showdown in Denver on Wednesday, but there is one man who will not be participating in the prime-time television debate: libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. That decision has angered some Gary Johnson supporters so much that at least two of the original sponsors of the 2012 presidential debates have decided to pull their support.

Philips Electronics and the women's organization YWCA have dropped their sponsorship, after they got flooded with letters from Gary Johnson supporters and the watchdog groups Open Debates and Help the Comission. According to US News, the non-profit which runs the presidential debates, the Commission on Presidential Debates, relies heavily on sponsors, so the decision by Philips Electronics and YWCA is likely to make a real impact.

In it announcement of its withdrawal of support, Philips wrote that it is concerned the commission's work "may appear to support bi-partisan" instead of "non-partisan" politics. That comes as a major victory to Johnson supporters and Open Debate, who have been protesting the debates for months.

The commission had originally stated that Johnson could be included in the debates, but he ultimately failed to garner the 15 percent support of the national electorate in order to be featured. Although Johnson filed a lawsuit over being excluded, he still does not have enough support to meet the commission's criteria. Since the commission was created in 1987, only at the 1992 debate, when Ross Perot appeared alongside George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, has a third-party candidate appeared on stage at a debate.

The Gary Johnson campaign is not expected to make in-roads in its legal challenge to being excluded, so libertarian supporters may seek to pressure more sponsors to boycott and pull their support as a way to express their disapproval with the debate commission.

PolicyMic will be live blogging Wednesday's debate in Denver. For live coverage check back for real-time updates and commentary!

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