Why is Gary Johnson not in the first presidential debate?

Source: AP
Source: AP

More than half of Americans want Gary Johnson to debate. And polls show him drawing almost 10% of the vote. But the Libertarian presidential nominee is not on track to appear alongside Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at the first debate on Sept. 26 at Hofstra University in New York. 

Johnson's failure to qualify for the debates has been long predicted. His campaign manager said recently that reaching the threshold was "unrealistic." 

But that did not stop the former New Mexico governor from trying. In August, he kicked off a "$15 for 15" fundraising campaign in an attempt to reach 15% support in the polls — the threshold he's required to reach in an average of five polls in order to participate in the debate. The last third-party candidate to appear in a presidential debate was Ross Perot in 1992.

Source: Graphiq

The Libertarian has said participation in the debates will make or break his campaign. In a lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates, Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein said exclusion from the debates was an "electoral death sentence." The lawsuit was unsuccessful. 

It is unclear where Johnson will go from here. Polling suggests there is a chance Johnson could play spoiler by winning one or two small western states and forcing the election to the House of Representatives. But the probability of this is very small. If Johnson manages to draw 5% of the vote, he will qualify the Libertarian party for public election funding in 2020. This would provide a financial boost to America's relatively small yet most viable third party. 

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Will Drabold

Will Drabold is a policy writer at Mic. He writes Navigating Trump's America, Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America. He is based in Washington, D.C., and can be reached at wdrabold@mic.com

MORE FROM

Hillary Clinton says Republicans will be the "death party" if they pass health care bill

Hillary Clinton spoke out against the Republican's proposed bill on Twitter.

It's time to redefine the clitoris, according to sex education experts

"Words matter. They shape and mold our ideas and beliefs about our purpose, our bodies, our self-worth and our place in the world around us."

Al-Jazeera becomes a target amid Qatar diplomatic crisis

Gulf states are demanding the broadcaster be shut down.

5 blocks of London apartments to be evacuated over potentially flammable cladding

800 North London apartments will be evacuated following a fire inspection that turned up evidence that the buildings could be unsafe.

Tomi Lahren wants to rally women to her side after criticizing feminists and "pro-choicers"

"My view on abortion is not black-and-white," Lahren said.

These 5 states are drafting laws to limit protests on college campuses

The legislation is intended to protect free speech on campus.

Hillary Clinton says Republicans will be the "death party" if they pass health care bill

Hillary Clinton spoke out against the Republican's proposed bill on Twitter.

It's time to redefine the clitoris, according to sex education experts

"Words matter. They shape and mold our ideas and beliefs about our purpose, our bodies, our self-worth and our place in the world around us."

Al-Jazeera becomes a target amid Qatar diplomatic crisis

Gulf states are demanding the broadcaster be shut down.

5 blocks of London apartments to be evacuated over potentially flammable cladding

800 North London apartments will be evacuated following a fire inspection that turned up evidence that the buildings could be unsafe.

Tomi Lahren wants to rally women to her side after criticizing feminists and "pro-choicers"

"My view on abortion is not black-and-white," Lahren said.

These 5 states are drafting laws to limit protests on college campuses

The legislation is intended to protect free speech on campus.