Donald Trump just got one more reason to be terrified of the upcoming presidential debates. Already at a disadvantage because he doesn’t technically know anything, Trump’s campaign just suffered another gut punch. He might not just be facing off against Hillary Clinton on the stage.
According to a report in Politico, the Commission on Presidential Debates sent a directive to the venues hosting the three major debates asking that they be prepared for a third person. In most elections, third-party candidates don’t qualify, but so many Republicans have abandoned Trump that libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has been polling close enough to actually make it on stage.
Johnson is hovering around 8.8 percent in national polls, according to RealClearPolitics’ average, whereas Stein, when included in polling, is at around 3.8 percent. Despite being below the 15 percent cutoff, there might be some flexibility in getting someone like Johnson on stage. Frank Fahrenkopf, McCurry’s Republican counterpart and co-chair on the commission, told CNBC last week that the commission may “consider giving an inch” to a third-party candidate if he or she is close enough to the cutoff point.
This is devastating news for Trump. A recent poll found that in a head-to-head election with Hillary Clinton, Trump will lose. In a four-way race that includes Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, Trump loses massively.
While both major candidates see a drop in their support, Clinton’s aided by a much more solid foundation. However, the numbers here aren’t quite as important as the effect those numbers will have on individual states. With Trump’s support plummeting to the 30s, he can expect to lose every battleground state and several red states that haven’t voted blue in decades.
Johnson’s biggest hurdle at the moment is that not enough Republican voters know about him. There’s a feeling among Republican voters looking at Trump as he threatens to use nuclear weapons, insults Hispanic judges, and stumbles from one blunder to the next, that the only reason to support him would be to avoid having to vote for Hillary instead. Lifelong Republicans, spoon-fed a diet of anti-Clinton rhetoric for the last 30 years, are understandably finding this election agonizing. Johnson may be their way out.
Johnson and Clinton taking turns obliterating Donald Trump on the debate stage in front of an audience of millions will have a disastrous effect on Trump’s already precarious support within the Republican Party. Meanwhile, Clinton’s rival from the left, Jill Stein, has been polling with such little support that she will likely not be included in any debate or, indeed, on many state ballots.
This could signal what some pollsters are already suggesting in a growing cacophony of whispers: This election could be a landslide. It may be among the biggest defeats in modern history. All it will take is liberals to show up to the polls and Republicans to tear themselves apart. It’s that simple.
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