Three organizations said recently that they will no longer sponsor the Commission on Presidential Debates after supporters of Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson launched a letter-writing campaign aimed at getting their man into the debates.
Philips Electronics confirmed on Monday that it was pulling its sponsorship of the commission, which stipulates that candidates with less than 15 percent support in national polls may not participate in televised debates. The electronics-maker was the third sponsor to announce it would be dumping the commission, following similar announcements by British ad firm BBH New York and the Young Women’s Christian Association (WYCA).
The commission was formed by the Republican and Democratic parties in 1987 to set ground rules for presidential debates. Debates prior to 1987 were sponsored by the League of Women voters, which pulled out of the debates in 1988, saying the partisan-controlled events were designed to ”perpetuate a fraud on the American voter.”
For his part, Johnson achieved 6 percent support nationwide, according to a recent poll (PDF) by libertarian-leaning Reason magazine. That survey also placed President Barack Obama at 49 percent support, with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney trailing at 40 percent.
And while 6 percent not nearly enough to qualify for the debates, that didn’t stop Johnson from suing the committee in federal court, alleging they’re orchestrating a conspiracy to squash third-party candidates. Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, originally ran for the presidency as a Republican, but the party excluded him from those debates as well.
Despite the low rating nationwide, Johnson’s chance to act as a presidential spoiler appears to be growing thanks to Republican dissatisfaction with Romney. A Gravis Marketing poll published late in September found Johnson with a surprising 10.6 percent support, up from just 4.5 percent earlier in the month. Pollsters also found that with Johnson in the race, Obama still gets 44.5 percent, but Romney drops off to 37.8 percent. When pollsters removed Johnson’s name from the lineup, Romney’s support improved to 44.3 percent, whereas Obama’s grew to 45.2 percent.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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