Politico reports that venues scheduled to host the presidential debates are preparing for the possibility of three participants.
The directive comes from producers working for the Commission on Presidential Debates and it’s meant, they say, to force the university hosts to be prepared and not as a reflection of the state of the race. But it could give supporters of Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein hope as they push an alternative to the historically unpopular major party nominees.
“With [former Gov.] Gary Johnson polling in some places more than double digits, they might have, some of our production people may have said, ‘Just in case, you need to plan out what that might look like,’” Commission on Presidential Debates co-chair and former Bill Clinton White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry told POLITICO. “We won’t know the number of invitations we extend until mid-September.”
To participate in one of the four general-election debates (three for president, one for vice president), candidates must be eligible for the presidency and “appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College,” the commission announced last year. They also must have a level of support nationally of at least 15 percent as “determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recently publicly-reported results at the time of the determination.”
Johnson is hovering around 8.8 percent in national polls, according to RealClearPolitics’ average, whereas Stein, when included in polling, is at around 3.8 percent. Despite being below the 15 percent cutoff, there might be some flexibility in getting someone like Johnson on stage. Frank Fahrenkopf, McCurry’s Republican counterpart and co-chair on the commission, told CNBC last week that the commission may “consider giving an inch” to a third-party candidate if he or she is close enough to the cutoff point.