The presidential candidates who weren’t on stage for Tuesday’s debate said the spectacle they missed is proof they ought to have been there as well.

“It was a mess,” Libertarian Party presidential hopeful Jo Jorgensen said Wednesday.

Howie Hawkins, the Green Party’s nominee for the nation’s top job, said Wednesday those watching the debate had to ask themselves, “Is this all there is? What a miserable choice.”

Both Hawkins and Jorgensen said their party’s websites crashed during the presidential debate because so many people immediately began looking at alternatives.

“We got blitzed,” Hawkins said.

Presidential candidates Howie Hawkins of the Green Party, left, Jo Jorgensen of the Libertarian Party and Rocky De La Fuente of the Alliance Party.

They said the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonprofit created by the Republican and Democratic parties, ought to allow the participation of any candidate who is on enough state ballots to have a shot at winning the White House.

Since the major parties hold the power, though, “they’re hesitant to give it up,” said Jorgensen, who plans to hold a rally in Lewiston on Saturday during a two-day tour of Maine.

As it is, the commission requires polling showing 15% or more of the public’s backing in order to make the cut, a standard that has opened the door to only one person since 1988 who wasn’t a major party contender, the Reform Party’s Ross Perot in 1992.

Maine ballots this year will show five presidential candidates: Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Joe Biden, Hawkins, Jorgensen and the Alliance Party’s Rocky De La Fuente. All but De La Fuente are on enough ballots nationally to have, at least in theory, a shot at winning the election.

De La Fuente said Wednesday that the tone of a more encompassing debate would be more civil and useful to voters who want to hear ideas and plans, not yelling and insults.

“The commander-in-chief should be able to act presidential,” De La Fuente said. “He acted like a 10-year-old kid in the middle of a brawl.”

Hawkins, a New Yorker, said Trump displayed “no class” on stage, behaving more “like a middle school bully” than a president.

Biden came across much better, he said, but failed to give the public reasons to vote for him.

“His message is that he’s not Trump,” Hawkins said, adding that “it works with a lot of people because Trump is kind of scary.”

De La Fuente said Biden “was basically just as bad,” tossing insults at the president by calling him “a clown” and worse. Had he stuck to the issues and presented himself as a gentleman, the California businessman said, the Democrat would have done better.

For Jorgensen, it doesn’t make sense to put two contenders in front of the public “who can’t even figure out how to have a civilized debate.”

Hawkins said minor party candidates who are on the ballot in most states – at this point, the Greens and the Libertarians – ought to be on stage with Biden and Trump.

Giving Americans more choice, he said, would showcase a wider diversity of views and raise important issues that are otherwise shortchanged, such as the creation of a new generation of nuclear weapons that has unleashed a little-noticed arms race.

Hawkins said that unlike Biden, he would have happily defended progressive proposals such as the Green New Deal and Medicare For All from the president’s attacks on them.

Jorgenson said she would have promoted a free market-based health care reform and explained why America should bring its troops home from overseas.

Without her party’s input, she said, nobody worried about the $27 trillion national debt that she said requires cutting spending dramatically. Among the cuts ought to be the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education, she said, because schools should be controlled locally.

“The American people lose when we’re not in,” Hawkins said. “We have constructive suggestions to make.”

With just two people debating, Hawkins said, “it can pay to go negative.”

He said Trump might have scored points for his aggressiveness at Tuesday’s debate except “he was such a jerk about it. He repelled a lot of people” by catering solely to his base.

Hawkins said Biden will likely win in a landslide, but Democrats and the public have to be ready to insist that every vote is counted and results at the polls respected.

Because Maine will be using ranked-choice voting in its presidential balloting this year, supporters of the three long-shot contenders are quick to point out that choosing one of them as a first pick won’t wind up crimping a major party candidate’s chances as long as voters rank their selections.

Ranked-choice voting, Hawkins said Wednesday, “would end the spoiler problem” everywhere if other states would follow Maine’s lead.

As it is, Mainers can pick Hawkins first and Biden second, he said, without hurting the Democrat’s chance of winning in the slightest.

De La Fuente said Mainers have a chance to send a strong message to the two major parties. He said if they were to choose someone other than Biden or Trump, the state would receive a vast amount of favorable international attention.

Jorgensen’s Lewiston rally is slated for 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Simard-Payne Memorial Park. Plans call for her to speak and answer questions from the crowd.

Jorgensen, who teaches at Clemson University, plans a similar rally at Bug Light Park in Portland at 5:30 p.m. Friday. She has also scheduled one on Saturday morning in Bangor and another at 5:30 p.m. in downtown Bethel following her appearance in Lewiston.


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