Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein failed to make the cut for the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Friday afternoon, in a significant blow for their campaigns.
Though Johnson and Stein satisfied two of the criteria necessary to participate – that they be constitutionally eligible and have achieved ballot access in a sufficient number of states to win a theoretical Electoral College majority – neither met the threshold on polling.
The commission said Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been formally invited to participate in the first presidential debate later this month, while their running mates, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, have been invited to participate in the vice presidential debate on Oct. 4.
“[T]he Board determined that the polling averages called for in the third criterion are as follows: Hillary Clinton (43%), Donald Trump (40.4%), Gary Johnson (8.4%) and Jill Stein (3.2%). Accordingly, Hillary Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine, and Donald Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, qualify to participate in the September 26 presidential debate and the October 4 vice-presidential debate, respectively. No other candidates satisfied the criteria for inclusion in the September 26 and October 4 debates. The criteria will be reapplied to all candidates in advance of the second and third presidential debates,” the Commission announced.
The Commission also said that the candidates who have qualified to participate have previously committed to participate in the debates.
In a statement Johnson said he wasn’t surprised about being excluded from the debate.
“I would say I am surprised that the CPD has chosen to exclude me from the first debate, but I’m not,” the statement read. “The only time a third candidate has been allowed on the stage was 1992, when both parties wanted him on the stage for their own purposes. It should be noted that, when [Ross] Perot was allowed on the stage, polls showed his support to be in single digits, below where Johnson and Weld are currently polling.”
But Johnson’s statement also signaled he plans to continue pushing for a spot on stage: “There are more polls and more debates, and we plan to be on the debate stage in October.”