Supporters bombard CNN with requests to cover Gary Johnson

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Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico who dropped his bid for the GOP presidential nomination in December, previously complained that the news media and debate organizers were unfairly biased against treating him as a legitimate candidate, in particular targeting CNN as “elitist.” Last year, Johnson protested when he was excluded from a primary debate because he did not meet the polling threshold.

Now Johnson is up against another polling threshold: the 15 percent required to be included in a presidential debate. The Commission on Presidential Debates sets the threshold. Johnson’s campaign is calling it “debate rigging” and is rallying grassroots supporters online, using social media tools.

The campaign publicized a planned protest on Monday at CNN Headquarters in Georgia, and asked supporters to phone and tweet CNN all day in hopes of causing a “blackout.” Information about the number of people who called CNN on Johnson’s behalf was unavailable, but only 226 RSVP’d to the Facebook event for the protest at HQ.

Still, Johnson’s supporters achieved about 3,000 tweets using the supportive hashtag at 11 a.m., according to the Twitter analytics tool Topsy. The hashtag was trending in some locations in the United States.

Johnson is rarely included in polls for the presidential election, which typically focus on Mitt Romney and President Obama. The campaign has touted two recent polls — one by Zogby and one by JZ Analytics — that indicate Johnson could take 5 percent of likely voters when offered as a third choice to Romney and Obama.

Johnson’s campaign is also running a Money Bomb on Monday with the goal of raising $150,000, or “the money necessary to put Gov. Johnson’ message on the air, and by doing so, reach the arbitrary 15 percent polling threshold the Establishment’s debate commission has set for inclusion in the nationally televised debates this fall,” according to senior adviser Ron Nielson in a release.

Johnson, who will appear on the ballot in all 50 states, also qualified for federal matching funds in May.