CNN held its first televised debate among Republican presidential candidates Monday tonight, but while the cable news network issued invitations to several non- or yet-to-announce candidates, it excluded one announced candidate who meets the criteria for inclusion. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, an avowed and articulate opponent of drug prohibition, was not invited to participate, and his campaign and supporters are crying foul.
"It is our hope that CNN will review the criteria that has excluded two-term Governor Gary Johnson from the New Hampshire debate," said senior Johnson campaign advisor Ron Nielson on Saturday. "Now that this information has come to light, we look forward to receiving an invitation for Governor Johnson to participate."
But CNN didn't change its mind. Instead, the network presented front-runner former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, Godfather's Pizza entrepreneur Herman Cain, non-announced candidate (until her announcement during the debate itself) Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Most of the invitations were well-justified. According to Real Clear Politics' aggregate poll data (which also does not include Johnson) all of the invitees are above 2%, although Santorum, at 3.2% overall, only averaged 2.67% in three May polls. Up until debate time non-announced candidate Bachmann is averaging 5.1%, although that's a decline from her May poll average of 7%.
Still, why Johnson was excluded even though he has officially announced and meets the debate criteria remains a mystery. CNN said it only wanted "serious" candidates with at least 2% of the vote, but also admitted it failed to include Johnson in its own polls.
Well, Republican-leaning drug reformers at least had Ron Paul to listen to.
(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)