Virginia’s own Virgil Goode is taking the stage for a debate tonight with three other third-party presidential candidates in a token nod to—I mean, late-in-the-game look at America’s alternative options in the race for the White House.
Goode, the former Republican (and before that, Democratic) 5th District representative who narrowly lost to Tom Perriello in 2008, is running on the Constitution Party ticket, and will join the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, the Green Party’s Jill Stein, and the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson in Chicago for a debate moderated by Larry King.
If you want to watch on TV, too bad. None of the major networks picked it up. You can follow along online at 9pm EDT, however, as three websites will be streaming it live: Ora TV, the on-demand Web TV site that carries Larry King’s show; the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, which organized the event; and, somewhat inexplicably, Russia Today.
The exclusion of the third-party candidates from mainstream presidential debates is nothing new. The Commission on Presidential Debates requires Thirds to show 15 percent of the public support them in five national polls before they’re allowed up onstage with the Democratic and Republican picks. That’s only happened three times in debate history, most recently in 1996, when Ross Perot managed to qualify for a second time.
The fact that it’s extremely rare for third-party candidates to gain that kind of foothold in the first place, and thus nearly impossible to get in the debate door, condemning them to further obscurity, regularly causes hand-wringing in certain circles. But in Virginia, it’s safe to assume that many of those who might otherwise be pushing for more publicity for a Goode presidential campaign—at least hypothetically—aren’t too miffed that his debate appearance isn’t making primetime.
Like Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, Goode is a well-known former Republican running as an outlier in a crucial swing state, and both have drawn the ire of the GOP establishment over worries that they may siphon votes away from Romney.
Whether any of the four will move the needle on election day is kind of beside the point. If you thought watching Romney and Obama sniping at each other or Biden and Ryan trading barbs was good TV, this four-way should hold some serious entertainment value.