For reasons which are at best illogical and at worst suspect, one of the best qualified candidates in the Republican field has not been invited to participate in next week's Republican debate in Manchester, New Hampshire. Although almost every other candidate was invited, no invitation was sent to former Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico. CNN is the primary sponsor of the debate and they claim that Johnson did not meet their criteria, particularly because he did not score 2% or more in the national polls they used for a reference, particularly their own polls.
Governor Johnson lays out many of the reasons why it makes no sense to exclude him from the debate in an article on his website, and the arguments based on his qualifications and his relevance are hard to ignore. He's a two term governor who has been in the race as a declared candidate since the very beginning, has outstanding credentials as a fiscal conservative and has raised substantial amounts of money. He was also included in the previous debate in South Carolina and is expected to be included in the upcoming debate in Florida. Johnson is also popular in New Hampshire where his mainstream libertarian message resonates with local activist groups like the Republican Liberty Caucus.
It's also notable that in previous debates CNN has made exceptions for candidates who were clearly serious and legitimate but did not meet all of their polling criteria, notably Mike Gravel in a similar debate in 2007. And they aren't exactly being strict about some of their criteria this time either, as they sent invitations to candidates who have not declared their candidacy and at least one who seems very unlikely to ever enter the race.
The main stumbling block is the question of whether Johnson has received 2% or more in relevant polls in May. It appears that CNN's argument for not including him is that he scored under 2% in their main presidential poll in the end of May. The problem with this argument is that the poll consists of four different versions with different lists of candidates, and while Johnson scores below two percent in two versions and 2% or more in the other two versions, the key distinction is that Johnson scores below the cutoff only in those polls which include candidates like Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin who have not declared and are not likely to declare as actual candidates. So in the only matchups CNN did with candidates who are actually running and attending the debate Johnson met their criteria. How can it be fair to exclude him on the basis of poll results which do not represent the actual composition of the campaign field or of the debate itself?