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Sunday's C-Span Opportunity: 3rd-Party Candidates Debate

Maria Recio

WASHINGTON - Third-party presidential candidates
finally will have their own debate: at 8 p.m. Sunday at Columbia
University in New York.

The debate, which will be
announced Wednesday, will include at least three of the four
third-party candidates - independent Ralph Nader, the Green Party's
Cynthia McKinney and the Constitution Party's Chuck Baldwin.
Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr said he has a scheduling conflict,
but debate organizers say he wanted to appear only with Nader.
(Democratic nominee Barack Obama and Republican nominee John McCain are
also invited.)

and Barr are on the ballot in 45 states, while the Green Party is on 31
state ballots and the Constitution Party is on the ballot in 37 states.
Nader and McKinney also are on the District of Columbia ballot.

say the debate is an important exercise in democracy, especially
because the debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates
(the last of which is Wednesday night) exclude candidates scoring below
15 percent in national polls. Nader, the best known of the candidates,
has an average of 2.5 percent in recent national polls, according to, while Barr averages 1.5 percent.

maintains that if he could get into the debates run by the Commission
on Presidential Debates, his numbers would immediately climb because
"two-thirds of the people don't know we're running."

"It's a Catch-22."

describes the debate commission as "a two-party dictatorial company
that doesn't want anybody else on the stage." The commission, created
in 1987, is a corporation headed by two former chairs of the Democratic
and Republican parties.


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But third-party critics of the system
recently got some traction: the second of the presidential debates
prompted a chorus of criticism of the "boring" format and the lack of
follow-up questions.

Nader also will give the issue more
visibility at a rally to open the debates Wednesday night at New York's
historic Cooper Union Great Hall, where presidential candidates back to
Abraham Lincoln have spoken.

The format for Sunday's third-party
debate is still being finalized. It will be moderated by Pacifica radio
host Amy Goodman. The issues promoted by the candidates strike a
different chord from the major party standard-bearers - all four are
against the $700 billion economic bailout and all oppose the Iraq war.

addition, each has his or her own agenda: Nader rails against corporate
greed while McKinney promotes environmental causes. The Libertarian
Party is a critic of monetary policy and likes to invoke a return to
the gold standard. Baldwin of the Constitution Party represents a
conservative, small government, anti-abortion party that wants to
"restore the government to its biblical foundations."

The third-party debate will be streamed at and will be shown on C-Span.


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