SFGate reported Thursday that Donald Trump has made history. Approximately a month before the election, Trump has earned zero major newspaper endorsements, a first for any major party nominee in presidential election history.
In fact, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson has amassed more major newspaper endorsements than Trump. Johnson has been endorsed by the Chicago Tribune, The Detroit News, New Hampshire Union Leader, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Winston-Salem Journal, and the Caledonian Record.
Some conservative-leaning newspapers and editorial boards with long track records of endorsing Republican candidates have broken ranks in the 2016 election. Looking at the choices the major parties have given them, they are looking outside the Republican and Democratic parties for an alternative option. For some, that is Johnson.
Yet despite these endorsements and additional editorial boards calling on Gary Johnson to be included in the presidential debates, the Libertarian ticket was not included in the first presidential debate, the vice presidential debate, and it will not be included in Sunday’s second presidential debate in St. Louis.
There will be one more debate on Wednesday, October 19, but assuming the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) denies Johnson inclusion, it seems the candidate’s new goal will be to garner at least 5 percent of the national vote on Election Day. Reaching 5 percent will make the Libertarian Party eligible for public funding in the next presidential election as well as help future Libertarian candidates nationwide.
The U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. granted oral argument for a lawsuit filed in 2015 challenging the legality of the CPD’s criteria for debate inclusion and the FEC’s regulation of the commission. The court set a hearing date for January 7, less than two weeks before Inauguration Day. The lawsuit will not have an impact on the 2016 election, but it will continue the discussion past November.
IVN has published several articles on the controversial and arguably unscientific sampling used by many of the polls hand-picked by the CPD to determine debate inclusion. Candidates must poll at an average of 15 percent in 5 national polls hand-picked by the CPD, but publicly available data shows that they can drastically under-sample independents, low-income households, or leave out an entire generation of voters completely.
The only candidates who can reasonably achieve the 15 percent threshold under the current system are Democrats and Republicans, as third party candidates lack the media exposure and financing to boost their name recognition. Even with major newspaper endorsements, without debate entry, third party and independent candidates like Gary Johnson cannot assert themselves into a national conversation controlled by the two major parties.