By Jordyn Phelps
When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump take the debate stage at Hofstra University tonight for first — and highly anticipated — presidential debate of the general election, Gary Johnson will watching on television some 30 miles away in Twitter’s Chelsea office in Manhattan — armed only with a Twitter handle.
The campaign for the Libertarian Party nominee is hoping to interject his voice into the debate from the sidelines through an aggressive Twitter and media strategy.
“Govs. Johnson and Weld will be making themselves available to the media, watching the debate with great interest, and will be anxious to point out how a third voice, representing millions of independent voters disenfranchised by the Republican and Democrat parties, would better serve the American people,” campaign communications director Joe Hunter told ABC News in a statement.
The campaign is coordinating with Twitter to build out a robust social media strategy during the 90-minute debate. Both Johnson and his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, will be live-tweeting throughout the evening.
It’s a markedly different strategy from that of Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who will be challenging her exclusion from the debate by going to Hofstra University to protest outside the secured parameter of the debate hall. The difference in approach between the two third-party candidates is one the Johnson campaign plans to highlight.
“[Johnson and Weld] will be respectful and not interested in any grandstanding for the cameras or inappropriate ‘protests,'” Hunter said.
Johnson failed to qualify for the first presidential debate after he fell short of the 15 percent polling threshold required by the Commission on Presidential Debate for inclusion. Johnson’s recent national polling average stands at 9 percent, with the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll published over the weekend putting him at 5 percent.
Although he has previously said it would be “game over” for his campaign if he failed to qualify for the debates, Johnson now says that it is “an ongoing process” to try to reach the 15 percent threshold for subsequent debates this fall.
In an interview on ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday, Johnson criticized the Commission on Presidential Debates over its formula for deciding who will be included in the debates, saying that the panel is “made up of Republicans and Democrats that just have no intention whatsoever in seeing anyone other than a Republican or Democrat on the debate stage.”
Johnson’s campaign is also touting an online petition that has now garnered over 1 million signatures in support of Johnson being included in the debates.