A prominent Virginia newspaper has endorsed Libertarian Gary Johnson for president, giving a rebuke to the deeply unpopular major party candidates while trying to boost the third party contender's long-shot bid just weeks before the first presidential debate.
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The Richmond Times-Dispatch's endorsement is the first from a major newspaper for the former New Mexico governor, who is running out of time to reach the polling threshold necessary to join Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the main debate stage this fall.
"Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton meets the fundamental moral and professional standards we have every right to expect of an American president," the editorial begins. "Fortunately, there is a reasonable -- and formidable -- alternative."
The paper, which has endorsed the Republican nominee for president every year for the last three decades, hailed Johnson's stances for limited government, social tolerance and individual freedom.
"More important, he's a man of good integrity, apparently normal ego and sound ideas," the editorial reads.
Still, Johnson must reach an average of 15 percent support in major polling in order to make the debate stage -- a threshold that Johnson himself has framed as make-or-break for landing his third-party candidacy in the White House.
"If the Commission on Presidential Debates wants to perform a real service to its country, it will invite Gary Johnson onto the big stage," wrote the paper's editorial board. "Why not take this chance to reject the binary choice between Clinton and Trump that was created by our two-party system?"
Johnson is currently polling around 10 percent in an average of polls that the debate commission will use.
Johnson has the backing of only one sitting member of the U.S. House -- with no sitting senators or governors. Other potential supporters like former Republican nominee Mitt Romney have remained on the sidelines.