What Gary Johnson Will Be Up to When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Take the Debate Stage

The third-party candidate will be live-tweeting throughout the night.

ByABC News
September 26, 2016, 8:32 AM

— -- When Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump take the debate stage at Hofstra University on Long Island in New York tonight for the highly anticipated first presidential debate of the general election, Gary Johnson will be watching on television some 30 miles away in Twitter's Chelsea office in Manhattan — armed only with a Twitter handle.

The campaign for the Libertarian Party nominee is hoping to interject his voice into the debate from the sidelines through an aggressive Twitter and media strategy.

Both Johnson and his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, will be live-tweeting throughout the evening.

"Govs. Johnson and Weld will be making themselves available to the media, watching the debate with great interest, and will be anxious to point out how a third voice, representing millions of independent voters disenfranchised by the Republican and Democrat parties, would better serve the American people," campaign communications director Joe Hunter told ABC News in a statement.

He added, "They will be respectful and not interested in any grandstanding for the cameras or inappropriate 'protests.'"

Green Party candidate Jill Stein will be challenging her exclusion from the debate by holding a rally outside the secured perimeter of the debate hall. However, her campaign says she will not "risk arrest," given that there is an active warrant for her arrest because of her involvement in a recent protest against a controversial pipeline project in North Dakota. In 2012, she and her running mate were arrested outside Hofstra University when they attempted to enter the grounds during a presidential debate between President Barack Obama and then–Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Instead, she plans to be live on Periscope during the debate, answering the same questions that are lobbed at Clinton and Trump on the debate stage.

Johnson failed to qualify for the first presidential debate after he fell short of the 15 percent polling threshold for for inclusion set by the Commission on Presidential Debates. His recent national polling average stands at 9 percent, with the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll published over the weekend putting him at 5 percent.

Although he previously said it would be "game over" for his campaign if he failed to qualify for the debates, he now says that it is "an ongoing process" to try to reach the 15 percent threshold for subsequent debates this fall.

In an interview on ABC News' "This Week" on Sunday, Johnson criticized the Commission on Presidential Debates over its formula for deciding who is included in the debates, saying that the panel is "made up of Republicans and Democrats that just have no intention whatsoever in seeing anyone other than a Republican or Democrat on the debate stage."

Johnson's campaign is touting an online petition that has garnered over 1 million signatures in support of Johnson's inclusion in the debates.

ABC News' MaryAlice Parks contributed reporting.