Johnson Close to Joining Clinton, Trump in Debates

Libertarian candidate for president Gary Johnson is but two percentage points short of earning a place on the debate stage with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump this fall.

In a new CNN/ORC International poll released Sunday, July 17, 2016, a potential four-way race has Clinton garnering 42%, Trump 37%, Johnson 13%, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein 5%. This is a four-point increase in support for Johnson since four weeks ago, and he is drawing supporters from both sides of the political spectrum in roughly equal numbers.

Johnson and other third party candidates must earn 15% support in five national polls before the presidential debates to be included.

CNN notes that

Typically, support for third party candidates fades as the major party tickets are set heading into their conventions. But Johnson’s support outpaces that of a typical third party candidate and may prove to have more staying power…

And the growing support for third party candidates also seems centered among younger voters, which could prove harmful to Clinton’s campaign. Among those voters under age 35, 46% back Clinton, 21% Trump, 20% Johnson and 10% Stein.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, which set the 15% threshold, has been criticized by third parties and their supporters for limiting inclusion — to the benefit of the two major parties.

The Hill writes:

[It’s] a catch-22 for third-party or late-deciding independent candidates: Most polling outlets are only testing match-ups between Trump and Clinton in their surveys.

“The game is rigged,” said former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who won 1 million votes as the Libertarian Party candidate in 2012 and is seeking the nomination again in 2016. “There’s no way a third-party candidate can compete unless they’re on the debate stage, and you can’t get there unless you’re in the polls.”

Johnson has earned double digits in past polls, but 13% is his highest rating yet.

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