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The judgment of “Morning Joe” panels has been cruel to Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson. It was on that show that he experienced a brain freeze at the name of a Syrian city, Aleppo; it was on that show, on Friday, that commentators helped a video of Johnson go viral for more of the wrong reasons.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt, Johnson tried a fresh response to the question of how a debate berth would allow him to actually win the election.

“It wouldn’t have anything to do with my debate performance,” said Johnson, who then stuck his tongue through his teeth. “I think I could stand up there for the whole debate and not say anything, and emerge as the leader.”

“He was just having fun,” explained Johnson spokesman John LaBeaume. “Lighthearted.”

But having missed the polling cutoff for the first debates — running mate William Weld, seen as the more traditionally charismatic member of the ticket, has also been excluded from the vice presidential debate — Johnson is relying on TV interviews to get his name ID up.

Simultaneously, progressive news sites are beginning to cover Johnson as a threat, one winning support from alienated progressive voters and millennials who like the idea of an “anti-establishment” candidate but haven’t investigated his libertarian economic agenda. That followed on polls that found Johnson running close to a tie with Clinton among millennials.

In recent days, that polling has trended slightly downward. In the most recent editions of polls that the Commission on Presidential Debates uses to determine how many lecterns to put out, Johnson has slightly declined. In the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, he’s fallen from 10 to 9 points; in the Fox News poll, from 9 to 8 points.

The CPD is opaque on the cut-off debate for inclusion. While the networks that hosted primary debates announced their cut-offs and occasionally made exceptions — CNN famously held a lectern near the stage of the first presidential debate, in case Vice President Biden made a last-minute decision to run — the CPD appears to be bringing the guillotine blade down more than a week before the debates.

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