WASHINGTON (UPI) — Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson will appear on the ballot in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, a feat no third party candidate has achieved in 20 years.
The campaign made the announcement Tuesday as part of a full-page ad in The New York Times, amid a public push for inclusion in the presidential debates, which Johnson, the former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, has said is crucial to becoming a serious contender in November’s election.
Paradoxically, in order to get a bump in the polls from the debate, Johnson first needs a bump in the polls to get on stage. The Commission on Presidential Debates has set the threshold for inclusion in the highly watched affairs at an average of 15 percent in five marquee national polls prior to the debate. While Johnson is vastly outperforming recent third party candidates who were an afterthought in the popular vote, he is still hovering around 10 percent right now, short of the commission’s threshold.
Johnson’s ad in the Times was used to publicize a letter to the debate commission, arguing national polls should not be the sole determining factor in which candidates are included in the debates. Johnson cites polling data that find 62 percent of those queried said they support his inclusion in the debate. He also pointed to polls in 15 states that have the Libertarian ticket clocking in at more than 15 percent.
“Our ticket is clearly a factor in the presidential election and should be represented in the debates,” Johnson’s ad states. “And this view is becoming the consensus.”
The ad goes on to cite several major newspaper editorials in favor of his inclusion and makes a pledge: If his poll numbers don’t go above 15 percent after the first debate he will not ask to be included in the final two debates.
In addition to his traditional media push, Johnson has also seen a surge in social media hits, though for a rather dubious reason — his gaffe over the Syrian civil war. For many Americans, their first real brush with Johnson as a presidential candidate came after he stunned the panel of the MSNBC morning news show Morning Joe by asking “what is Aleppo?”
Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and the epicenter of the bloody conflict between government forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces seeking his ouster. It has been the focus of wide reporting for years.
USA Today reports Johnson, who unlike Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump does not enjoy universal name recognition among voters, became the subject of a viral video for the Aleppo flub. While the moment was hardly an impressive one for the candidate — he said later he was “sick about it” — it at least had the benefit of making him more widely known.
USA Today reported in the week following his Syria blunder, Facebook users generated 8.1 million likes, comments, shares and posts about Johnson, more than double his total from the week before.
In the wake of the Aleppo flap, Johnson used social media to invoke the famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
The Wall Street Journal reports it is the first time a third party candidate will appear on every U.S. ballot since 1996 when Reform Party candidate Ross Perot and Libertarian Harry Browne both did so.