Presidential candidates from four independent parties gathered for a debate in Illinois moderated by Larry King Tuesday night and organized by Chris Tobin's Fair and Equal Elections Foundation, and spoke on the issues while chastising the Democratic and Republican parties.
Political observers noted Wednesday that the candidates — the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson, the Green Party's Jill Stein, the Constitution Party's Virgil Goode, and the Justice Party's Rocky Anderson — delivered a "collective rebuttal" to the Democratic and Republican parties.
Chris Good of ABC News said the candidates not only criticized the two-party system, but also took to task mainstream policies dealing with college tuition and term limits.
"The full political spectrum was on display, from Stein's support for free, government-funded college education and a 'Green New Deal,' to Anderson's proposal of a WPA-like program and protections from sexual-orientation discrimination, to Goode's insistence that the government can't afford more Pell education grants, to Johnson's call for a 43-percent cut in military spending and opposition to government's involvement in marriage and drug policy," Good wrote. "The common thread was opposition to corporations, political spending and staid power structures."
Sarah Wheaton of The New York Times wrote that although the candidates seemed to agree on many issues, they offered those watching the debate streamed live online by various media networks a certain distinction.
"Because the debate focused on ideas and principles — rather than the candidates' records and qualifications — the tone of the debate was genuinely warm, without any of the direct engagement or interruptions that have marked the Obama-Romney and Biden-Ryan debates," Wheaton wrote.
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James Rainey of The Los Angeles Times also noted that the candidates seemed to agree on many issues, and pointed out where they stood on marijuana legalization and climate change.
"Everyone but Goode agreed that the U.S. should legalize marijuana. The three — Stein, Johnson and Anderson — said the criminalization of the drug had led to massive imprisonment rates that far outstrip the rest of the world's, and huge costs that cannot be sustained. The three also bemoaned the total lack of attention to climate change in the main presidential contest. Anderson called it 'a greater long-term risk to the United States than terrorism.'"
Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post noted how the candidates compared in influence among voters with Ross Perot, the last third-party candidate the Commission on Presidential Debates allowed to participate in a major party debate.
"At best, the four candidates who appeared together Tuesday are each expected to compete for single-digit percentage shares of the vote in the states where they will appear on the ballot. Not one has made a dent on the national radar akin to the success Texas billionaire Ross Perot found in 1992, when he carried nearly 20 percent of the popular vote. Goode, Johnson, and Stein each claimed one percent support in an early September Gallup poll of national adults," wrote Sullivan.
Although the general consensus is that a third-party candidate has little chance of actually winning the presidency, those who tuned in Tuesday night to watch the FEEF-organized Third Party Debate welcomed the event, held at the Hilton Chicago and carried live online by Al Jazeera English, and Russia Today, Ora TV and Link TV. C-SPAN was the only network to broadcast the debate live on television.
"Can't recall ever enjoying a presidential debate but tonight's debate was better than a movie. I loved it. The setting was par excellence, the hall, the stage, and of course the magnificent Larry King, who kept everyone in line to the T," commented one viewer. "Christina Tobin blew me away with an honesty that pervades every word she utters. I voted my choices for the next debate and look forward to Oct 30 Washington DC debate. I only wish mainstream media would pick up on this to illuminate these candidates and do their part to save America."
Another viewer wrote, "Good job to all involved in this debate. Looking forward to the voting part. All four candidates were thankfully mindful of the need to restore our rights. That alone was worth hearing, but each had done well in presenting their top issues. Spreading the word about next Tuesday night's debate so more will be aware."
As for which candidates won Tuesday night's Third Party Debate, the Free and Equal Elections Foundation has given viewers 24 hours since the close of the debate, which aired from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m ET, to cast their vote to decide which two of the four will appear in a second debate Oct. 30 in Washington, D.C.
The Free and Equal Elections Foundation is a nonprofit whose goal is to "give every candidate a fair chance at winning their respective elections, but more importantly, allow voters to vote for a candidate that best represents their values and beliefs."
Watch a full cut of the Third Party Presidential Debate: