BY BRIAN MCLAUGHLIN, TLI
This week we heard that the debate commission is telling the venues to at least entertain the possibility of a third podium being needed during the September and October Presidential debates … as well as the one Vice-Presidential debate.
Why is the word here “entertain” … this is a no brainer. They should be PLANNING on it, not “entertaining” the idea of it. If a candidate is going to be on the ballot in enough states that mathematically he or she could gain a 270 majority–he or she should be in the debates.
Period. Period. Period.
No subjective polling, no required percentage amount that is impossible to attain without debate status. In fact, that’s what this is: It’s a DEBATE PARADOX.
You can’t get into the debates unless you’re averaging 15 percent … but you can’t get 15 percent unless you’re in the debates.
It’s like watching a dog chase its tail–and then the dog gets so dizzy it either upchucks or walks sideways into a electrified barbed-wire fence. Lose, lose.
Debates made Bernie Sanders. Look at the chart above. Prior to this election, he was just known as the independent U.S. Senator from Vermont who caucused with the Dems. That’s all I knew about him and I’m a political nerd–most Americans didn’t know him from a hole in the wall.
When he announced his intention to run on April 30, 2015, he was polling at 5.6%. That’s lower than the current Johnson-Weld ticket is polling in the RCP (8%). One year later, after nine debates where he generally went one on one with Hillary Clinton? He was at 45.8% and he won more than 20 states. He used this debate opportunity (and the media that came as a result) to build momentum, and he nearly toppled the “shoo-in” candidate.
If Bernie can get this momentum just from being in the debates … which of course helps create spinoffs on Saturday Night Live and ends up being a mainstream moment … then Johnson would easily benefit, too.
Why is it that we have endure 12 party candidate in one debate during the primaries … sometimes with candidates polling less than 2% … but we can’t have the Johnson-Weld ticket on stage for the general?
We all know why … because the Libertarian ticket is dangerous. Martin O’Malley wasn’t a threat to Clinton, and the Dems thought Bernie would be a grouchy old man and would go away quickly. They had to set up the illusion that there was a real race going on, for the lemming Dem voters. On the Rep side, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee were castoffs from the past, but they got to be on stage.
The threshold shouldn’t be subjective polling with questionable methods, the threshold should be based on whether your campaigns spent enough time and money to get on enough ballots to be viable.
Make it an objective system, folks. And scream bloody murder when it isn’t objective.