The nominees of the Libertarian and Green parties will not appear in the first presidential and vice-presidential debates after decisively missing the 15 percent polling threshold established by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
According to standards released to the media this summer, the CPD based its polling threshold on five "reliable" surveys, all backed by major media outlets. All five had included Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green nominee Jill Stein, and all found them falling far short of 15 percent. According to an average collected by RealClearPolitics, Johnson averaged 8.4 percent support in the basket of polls, while Stein averaged 3.2 percent. Johnson's strongest result — 13 percent support — came in a Quinnipiac poll that was not included in the average.
Both campaigns, which had been ready for the snub and had unsuccessfully sued for debate access, reacted with outrage. Johnson's campaign, which had previously pointed out that Ross Perot did not poll as high as 15 percent right before the 1992 debates, accused the CPD of rigging the game.
"The CPD may scoff at a ticket that enjoys ‘only’ 9 or 10% in their hand-selected polls, but even 9% represents 13 million voters, more than the total population of Ohio and most other states," Johnson said in a statement. "Yet, the Republicans and Democrats are choosing to silence the candidate preferred by those millions of Americans. Americans are tired of rigged systems, and the monopoly on debates created by the CPD is a prime and skillfully executed example."
Stein lambasted the commission in a series of tweets.
Stein has repeatedly promised to show up at the first presidential debate, scheduled for Sept. 26 at New York's Hofstra University, and to get arrested in an act of civil disobedience. Johnson has no such plans, but he and running mate Bill Weld have previously said that an exclusion from the debate stage would close off their chances at an upset win.
Shortly after the CPD announced its decision, independent candidate Evan McMullin issued Stein and Johnson an invitation to a take part in their own debate.
Johnson's campaign had no comment, but in an interview during his August campaign swing through New England, Johnson dismissed McMullin as a fringe candidate who would not be in serious contention for the presidency.
"He's going to be on the ballot in, what, nine states?" Johnson said.
McMullin has had more luck gaining ballot access since then, but in some states, such as Texas, he is an "official write-in candidate" — eligible for electoral votes if a plurality of voters write him in but not on the ballot.