The first presidential debate is only two weeks away. We’ll try to give you information that will be helpful in evaluating the responses. The first issue that seems to be on everyone’s mind is whether Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, will be included. There’s an arbitrary 15% threshold for inclusion—if a candidate can’t show an average of 15% support in major national polls, they can’t be on the stage.

Green Party candidate Jill Stein has been averaging about three percent for several months, and independent Evan McMullin doesn’t even show up in most polls. But as you can see in Monday’s Real Clear Politics average, Johnson’s average is only 9.1, with two recent polls putting him at 12% (NBC News/SM and IBD/TIPP). But in three others, he only has 7% (Gravis, Economist/YouGov, and CNN/ORC).


Johnson has been inching up, but not fast enough to reach 15% before the September 26 debate. In fact, bettors on PredictIt only give him an 87% chance of keeping above 8% in the polls by Wednesday night. Also, two percent of the bettors think Johnson will drop out of the race by the end of this month.

Johnson didn’t help his cause while he was interviewed on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

“What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?” MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” panelist Mike Barnicle asked the former New Mexico governor during an in-studio interview Thursday morning.

“And what is Aleppo?” Johnson responded.

“You’re kidding,” a stunned Barnicle replied, to which Johnson answered that he was not.

Barnicle explained to the Libertarian candidate that Aleppo is “the epicenter of the refugee crisis” in Syria, giving Johnson enough information to finally answer the question.

“Okay, Got it. Well, with regard to Syria, I do think that it’s a mess,” he said. “I think the only way that we deal with Syria is to join hands with Russia to diplomatically bring that at an end but when we’ve aligned ourselves with — when we have supported the opposition, the Free Syrian Army, the Free Syrian Army is also coupled with the Islamists, and then the fact that we’re also supporting the Kurds and this is, it’s just a mess. And then the fact that we’re also supporting the Kurds and this is — it’s just — it’s just a mess. And that this is the result of regime change that we end up supporting. And, inevitably, these regime changes have led a less-safe world..”

Here’s the video:

The episode is being portrayed as stupidity on the part of Johnson, as if, perhaps, he thought “Aleppo” was the fifth Marx Brother (along with Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo). But if you read his response, Johnson is fully aware of the situation in Syria. He later said he thought Barnicle was referring to some government acronym.

If you read the full transcript, you can see that the Aleppo question came out of nowhere, with no context. The first question was what does the Johnson-Weld ticket bring to the campaign, then which major candidate is losing more votes to Johnson, then does he worry about being this year’s “Ralph Nader”—a spoiler, who causes one of the major candidates to lose. All politics. Then, suddenly, “What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?” Out of nowhere. Here’s the full transcript.

But, again, if you read his answer, it was comprehensive and detailed. Clearly, Johnson understands the Syrian crisis and how it relates to America. And when he went on Fox News, he told Neil Cavuto he planned to turn the episode into something positive.

“I’m going to try to make lemonade out of this, which is to talk about the policy in Syria right now, and Aleppo is at the epicenter of that policy,” he began..

Cavuto rudely interrupted, and Johnson tried to continue.

“If I’ve got this wrong, you tell me I have it wrong,” he said before starting on the country’s geopolitical divide. “We have Assad, we have the administration on the east side, we have the regime of Assad on the east side of Aleppo,” he continued.

Cavuto interrupted again, trying to play the “gotcha” game, but Johnson went on.

Johnson reiterated remarks he made earlier in the day — that he thought Aleppo was an abbreviation. “I thought he was talking about an acronym — Al — American — I don’t know,” he confessed before attempting to go into policy particulars for a third time.

“You got the regime only Assad on the east side of … Aleppo. On the west side, the Free Syrian Army which is aligned with the Islamists, ISIS, whom we actually were paying Assad at one point to fight ISIS, but the two of them are aligned, so you have this arms transfer between the two, and there were also supporting the Kurds, which are fighting ISIS, that are cross-ways with our ally, Turkey.”

Not listening, Cavuto ended with, “I’m almost a cynic and could say he’s trying to make up and sound smart.”

Fair. And balanced. Not.

Meanwhile, former Minnesota Governor (and pro wrestler) Jesse Ventura is backing Johnson all the way.

Jesse Ventura, former governor of Minnesota and author of “Sh*t Politicians Say: The Funniest, Dumbest, Most Outrageous Things Ever Uttered By Our Leaders” [and recently said on CNBC] “I’ve always had the belief that you vote for someone you believe in. When you cast your vote, you want that person to be president. You don’t vote for one politician so that another doesn’t become president. . .

Ron Paul mentioned that he’s probably going to vote Libertarian this year. He should. After all, he was their presidential nominee back in 1988. Come November, I will join him, voting for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson again, just like I did in 2012. . .

I know Gary Johnson personally — we were governors at the same time. He was always an honest, straightforward kind of guy who put the needs of the people first. That’s the kind of person I want for our next president. . .

Could you imagine if there were so many political parties in the U.S. that Congress saw a benefit in coming together to pass legislation — and that legislation would therefore represent what all the people actually wanted? Well, if We the People start to vote for third parties, then this will actually happen.

Johnson is getting attention this year, specifically because so many people do not like the candidate their major party nominated. He knew he had no real chance to win, from the outset. His goal this year was to get up to 15% in the polls, so he could get into the debates. He still probably couldn’t win this year, but it would put the Libertarian Party on the stage, hoping to be considered as a major party by 2020.

It doesn’t look as if that’s going to happen this year. And if not this year, never. We will never have such unpopular major party candidates such as these again. We hope.

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Goethe Behr is a Contributing Editor and Moderator at Election Central. He started out posting during the 2008 election, became more active during 2012, and very active in 2016. He has been a political junkie since the 1950s and enjoys adding a historical perspective.

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