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Young, gay GOP groups oppose Johnson’s exclusion from the New Hampshire debate

Multiple GOP-affiliated groups are calling for presidential candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson to be invited to an upcoming televised debate in New Hampshire. The debate’s hosts, CNN as well as the New Hampshire Union Leader and WMUR-TV, say they will not include Johnson because he has not received more than 2 percent support in any major national polls.

What’s particularly interesting is the nature of the groups that are supporting Johnson’s invitation: Both the New Hampshire Young Republicans and GOProud, the Republican gay-rights group, have condemned Johnson’s exclusion. Both emphasized the unusual move of excluding an experienced and respected politician from the debate, while extending invitations to less experienced candidates with greater name recognition. The Associated Press reports that David Hurst, chairman of the New Hampshire Young Republicans, says that “Johnson has an impressive record as governor and should have been included.” Similarly, Jimmy La Salvia, executive director of GOProud, told the Washington Times, “Gary Johnson is a former two-term Governor and a committed limited government advocate… he has certainly earned the right to participate in this debate.”

With his libertarian beliefs, including his support for marijuana legalization, reproductive rights and same-sex marriage, Johnson has a clear appeal to members of a generation that tends to share his socially liberal views but that may nevertheless identify as conservative, vote Republican and want their voices heard within the party.

Critics of the debate’s format point out that relying on early polling to determine who should be included in the debate has led to the unusual outcome of inviting people who haven’t yet declared their candidacy (such as Sarah Palin, Donald Trump and, before they declared they weren’t running, Mike Huckabee and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels) while leaving out Johnson. However, as a post on Johnson’s website pointed out, Johnson actually did receive 3 percent support in recent Gallup polling, which means that the debate’s hosts are faced with a challenge to their decision.

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