McMullin challenges Johnson, Stein to undercard debate

 
 
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“I’d like to debate Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I think I’d do well. But in lieu of that, or until we get to that point, I’d be happy to debate Gary Johnson and Jill Stein,” McMullin said. 
 
“I think the American people, in this election especially, deserve as many options as they can get, so we’d welcome that opportunity.”
 
McMullin said he’s asked his team to reach out to the rival campaigns about that possibility but isn’t sure if Johnson or Stein are open to it yet.
 
“I hope the other two third-party or other-party candidates will see the wisdom in it,” McMullin said.
 
The Commission on Presidential Debates requires a candidate be polling at 15 percent nationally in five polls leading up to the debate to qualify.
 
Despite the heightened interest in third-party and independent candidates this cycle, none have been unable to hit the 15 percent threshold in any national poll.
 
Johnson consistently polls in the 8 to 10 percent range, which is better than most third-party candidates in the past but not good enough for prime time.
 
Stein polls around 5 percent nationally, and McMullin, who launched his bid only one month ago with almost no name identification, is at around 1 percent in the surveys that include him.
 
McMullin, a former undercover CIA operative in the Middle East, describes himself as a “center-right” Republican.
 
 
McMullin said he launched his bid because he was overcome with frustration over the choice between Trump and Clinton, the most unpopular major party candidates to ever be nominated.
 
The Libertarian ticket includes two former Republican governors, in Johnson of New Mexico and Bill Weld of Massachusetts, but McMullin said he couldn’t support them because “they’ve moved way left” in the general election.
 
Johnson supports abortion rights and marijuana legalization, advocates for a non-interventionist foreign policy and is opposed to religious freedom laws, believing them to be bigoted against gay Americans.
 
The Libertarians have so far pulled more support away from Clinton than from Trump, polls show.
 
McMullin argued that there is room in the race for him to overtake the Libertarian ticket, saying that Johnson and Weld have “capped out” in public opinion surveys.
 
“It says a lot in an election year when you have two major party candidates who are this unpopular, that somebody like [Johnson], a former governor, couldn’t run with more success,” McMullin said. 
 
“The bottom line is, I don’t see him winning any Electoral College votes. If you want to stop Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, you need to win electoral college votes. Getting in the race as late as we did, we have a better opportunity to do that.”
 
McMullin got on the ballot in South Carolina on Wednesday, the 10th state that will feature his name. He will be permitted as a write-in candidate in another 10 states, and his advisers and legal team are working to get him on the ballot elsewhere.
 
But McMullin isn’t under the illusion that he’ll get to the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
 
Instead, he hopes to pick off a state here or there — his team believes Minnesota and Utah offer opportunities — to block Clinton and Trump from getting to 270.
 
In that scenario, the election would be thrown to the House, where McMullin is deeply connected and polarization might make it difficult for lawmakers to settle on Trump or Clinton.
 
“The strategy is unconventional, it means we’re not competing in the same way Clinton and Trump are competing, so we’ll identify the states where we need to be active to either influence or win the election to block Clinton or Trump from winning,” McMullin said.
 
“It’s firmly within the rules of our democracy and I firmly believed someone needed to step up to do this,” he added. “This is part of our process and it isn’t perfect but we’ll operate within it.”