Friday, August 5, 2016

A Libertarian in the Presidential Debates?

Can Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, get a seat in the presidential debates? I think probably not, but let's dig into the details.

The debate commission criteria present three challenges. First, you must be qualified to serve as president. That's an easy one. Second, you must be on enough state ballots to mathematically have a shot at the 270 electoral votes needed to be elected president. That one's covered.

The third one, though, is tougher. Here's the language with my boldface:
The CPD's third criterion requires that the candidate have a level of support of at least 15% (fifteen percent) of the national electorate as determined by five national public opinion polling organizations selected by CPD, using the average of those organizations' most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination. CPD will rely on the advice of a recognized expert or experts in public opinion polling in determining the polls it will rely upon. The polls to be relied upon will be selected based on the quality of the methodology employed, the reputation of the polling organizations and the frequency of the polling conducted. CPD will identify the selected polling organizations well in advance of the time the criteria are applied.
The polls will likely be "gold standard" surveys, meaning they use live callers (not robo-polls) of both landlines and cell phones (probably not online panels, though there's a good one out there). The major news organizations spend the money for such quality polls. Pew also produces these quality polls, as do a few other shops. Looking at the most likely polls, Johnson ranges today between 8 and 12 percent -- and he's dipped a bit in the most recent polls, but we're talking a point here or there, a statistical blip. Can change in a heartbeat, or a Trump miscue.

The commission does not make a decision on who gets a chair on the stage until after Labor Day, though of course in plenty of time before the first debate, which is Sept. 26.

Remember, third party candidates poll better than they actually perform in the election. Gary Johnson also ran in 2012. One poll had him at 6 percent support, another at 7 percent. He captured 0.99 percent of the popular vote. In other words, a hair under 1 percent, while polling at 7 percent.

My money is Johnson doesn't make the stage and instead will find a ready seat on any number of late-night television shows to make his case.

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