To qualify for the first presidential debate on September 26, Gary Johnson — the Libertarian Party candidate — must hit a mark of 15 percent support in an average of five polls taken by the four major TV networks plus the cable news channel CNN. But though Johnson has a long way to go to reach that threshold, a new poll shows that more than half of all Americans want to see Gary Johnson on the debate stage with Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump anyway.
The new poll by the research firm Morning Consult leaves Johnson in a awkward position, with most voters apparently eager to see him debate — but relatively few actually willing to vote for him.
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson says win is “not impossible” if presidential debate hurdle is cleared https://t.co/9lVheTkCIw
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) August 28, 2016
But Johnson believes that the situation is a Catch-22 for him. He says that if he were allowed to debate Trump and Clinton, he would increase his support dramatically and, he claims, would give him a chance to “run the table” and win the presidential election.
“The object is to win outright,” Johnson said in a Fox News interview on Sunday. “And it’s not impossible if we go into the presidential debates with the polarization of Clinton and Trump that we might actually run the table on all of this.”
Watch Gary Johnson explain his “path to victory” in that interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News in the video below.
The new poll issued September 1 by Morning Consult shows that 52 percent of Americans believe that the debates should include Johnson, the 63-year-old former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, who switched to the Libertarian Party in 2012.
But in the latest average of of all publicly available presidential polls compiled by Real Clear Politics, Johnson stands at only 7.6 percent. The latest poll by a television network, in this case Fox News, that would be included in the five in which Johnson must average 15 percent, shows the Libertarian Party nominee at only nine percent.
In fact, in the latest presidential preference poll conducted by Morning Consult itself, released on August 27, Johnson polled at only eight percent.
The new Morning Consult poll also shows a significant number of Americans, though not a majority, want to see Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein included in the first presidential debate as well.
The poll found 47 percent of Americans who want to see Jill Stein debate Clinton, Trump and possibly Johnson as well. But Stein averages only 3.2 percent in all polls according to Real Clear Politics — and the most recent Morning Consult polls puts the 66-year-old who has never held public office outside of Lexington, Massachusetts at a mere three percent.
That’s a decrease of two points for Stein since an August 5 Morning Consult poll, while Gary Johnson has dropped only a single point, from nine percent to eight.
— POLITICO (@politico) September 1, 2016
Johnson lately has taken to blaming the way poll questions are phrased for his poll numbers, which appear to be stalled several points short of the 15 required to win him a place in the debates.
“None of the polls being conducted right now have us on the top line. None of them. It’s always Trump and Clinton and then second question, third question, ‘Well, what if you add Johnson-Weld?’,” Johnson said in a CNBC interview earlier this month.
Johnson added that if pollsters presented the options to voters as “Johnson/Trump/Clinton,” he would already be at 20 percent.
But an investigation by the fact-checking site PolitiFact found that Johnson’s claim simply does not hold water.
In fact, the site found, in a study of 25 national polls conducted in July and August, Johnson was indeed included in the “top line” in 11 of them, or 44 percent.
And in those 11 polls, Johnson performed not better than his nine percent average — but worse. On the other hand, when Johnson’s name was included in a later question, below the “top line,” Johnson actually did better than nine percent.
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In a CNN poll which asked about him only in a later question, Gary Johnson actually hit 13 percent — only two points shy of the required number to earn him his own podium in the presidential debates.
[Photo By Rick Bowmer/AP Images]