In 1992, independent candidate Ross Perot became the only third-party contender to ever make it on stage in the general election presidential debates — but that could change in 2016. A forthcoming interview with the co-chairs of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) reveals that the organization anticipates a potential third-party debater this cycle.
"The dynamic in the electorate right now and the dissatisfaction with the two major political parties could very conceivably allow an independent or a third-party candidate to emerge," said co-chair Michael McCurry, "and we are very clear that they would be welcome in these debates." His fellow co-chair, Frank Fahrenkopf Jr., agreed, noting that such a candidate would have to hit 15 percent support nationally to be included, an almost impossible goal for independent candidates before having the exposure of the debates.
The CPD was founded by the Republican and Democratic National Committees. Before 1988, the debates were run by the League of Women Voters, which withdrew participation that year, arguing that the major parties "aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions."