Third parties trying to debate

Published 10:22 am Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Given that a majority of Americans dislike the two major-party candidates for president, the Commission on Presidential Debates should open up the first presidential debate to one or more third-party candidates.

The likeliest contender is Gary Johnson, the former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, now running as the nominee of the Libertarian Party, on a ticket with Libertarian vice presidential nominee William Weld, former two-term governor of Massachusetts.

At present, Johnson is barred from the debates because of rules set by the presidential-debate commission. It requires that candidates draw an average of at least 15 percent in five national polls in order to take part.

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Of all the third-party candidates, Johnson has come closest, achieving 10 percent support in a Quinnipiac University poll pitting him against Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Green Party nominee Jill Stein. The RealClearPolitics website, which averages a variety of recent national polls, shows Johnson drawing 8.4 percent support and Stein 3.2 percent.

Those are anemic numbers, but it’s important to remember how disadvantaged third-party candidates are in the American electoral system.

Start with the fact that politics in the United States often is described as a “two-party system.” This, despite the fact that there is no limit on the number of political parties that can contend for political office…


The Columbus Dispatch