Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who abandoned a failed campaign for the GOP presidential nomination to run as the Libertarian party's candidate, said this week that the key to his longshot bid will be getting into the fall's debates with President Obama and Mitt Romney. Johnson supporters, who say dismissive news organizations are hurting Johnson's chances of getting a debate slot, protested last week outside the Atlanta headquarters of CNN, which hasn't included Johnson in its polling since last year. The Commission on Presidential Debates says that it hasn't decided who will be invited to participate, and that Johnson still has time to earn a slot — the first televised debate will be held Oct. 3. Does Johnson belong on stage with Obama and Romney?

Johnson would sharpen the debates: The last several years of presidential debates "were absolute snoozefests," says Daniel de Gracia at The Washington Times. "Johnson's penchant for snappy redirects and crowd-winning zingers" would make this next round worth watching. Johnson would add a "destabilizing competitive element" to the debates, forcing Obama and Romney out of their comfort zones. Who knows, he might even "bring out real issues," for a change.
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He has to earn his spot: Johnson sure offers an alternative, says Andrew Moran at He's anti-war (don't bomb Iran, get out of Afghanistan "tomorrow"); he's libertarian (yes to gay marriage, not to the war on drugs); and he's fiscally conservative. says he'd win by a landslide if all Americans voted solely on the issues. But, according to the rules, candidates are barred from the debates unless they reach 15 percent in selected polls, and Johnson only has 5 percent support.
"Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson fighting to be in the presidential debates"

In or out, Johnson is a factor: Johnson was allowed to take part in one of the GOP primary debates, says Joe Trippi at Fox News, and he still couldn't break 2 percent in a major national poll. If past third-party bids are a guide, he'll fare no better in the general election. But third-party candidates can be spoilers — Ross Perot helped Bill Clinton win in 1990, and Ralph Nader did the same for George W. Bush in 2000. Johnson, polling at 9 percent in swing state Arizona and 13 percent in New Mexico, could tip the race for Obama or Romney, whether he makes the debates or not.
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Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.