Katie Kieffer

Hit the gym; grab dinner with friends; build a bonfire. These are three evening activities I prefer to watching presidential debates—and I am a political commentator. Few young people watch presidential debates and I understand why.

After Wednesday’s initial presidential debate, I realized that Republicans are failing to exploit the debates and attract independent voters. Instead, Republicans seem to be preaching to the choir.

Fox News Channel (FNC) drew the largest cable audience and 28 percent of FNC’s 10,421,380 total viewers fell into the 25-54 age range. The 25-54 age range also comprised the minority of both CNN and MSNBC’s audiences. The logical conclusions are that most Americans who watched the debate were: A) conservative, since they were watching the debate on FNC, and B) over age 40.

Many Republicans believe that third party candidates steal votes and limelight from the GOP nominee, helping to elect the Democrat. I challenge this concept. I think the GOP could improve its chances of winning general elections by welcoming individuals like Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson into nationally televised debates. Doing so would pressure the Republican candidate to offer stronger, more specific arguments and also draw young people to the debates.

History of the Commission on Presidential Debates

Do you know why we only watch two presidential candidates in nationally televised general election debates? Most Republicans assume that this tradition reflects both the popular opinion of the American people and the Constitution. However, this is hardly the case.

The Constitution does not establish a commission (made up of the two main parties) to set the threshold for determining who can debate on television. Rather, the two major parties collaborated to form a “bipartisan” Commission on Presidential Debates to control and sponsor the debates before the 1988 general election. Both the DNC and RNC chairmen told The New York Times that they had no intention of ever including third party candidates.

This year, Johnson is constitutionally eligible for office and his name is on the ballot on all 50 states. He does not, however, meet the Commission’s arbitrary requirement to “have demonstrated a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate, as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations...”


Katie Kieffer

Katie Kieffer is the author of a new book published by Random House, LET ME BE CLEAR: Barack Obama’s War on Millennials and One Woman’s Case for Hope.” She writes a weekly column for Townhall.com. She also runs KatieKieffer.com.