Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have agreed to four more debates during the primary season, with the first scheduled to take place this Thursday ahead of the New Hampshire primary, the Kansas City Star is reporting.
Although the two campaigns have agreed to the debates in principle, the specifics have yet to be worked out. Most importantly, it’s not clear, as of this writing, if the Democratic National Committee is going to sanction the debates.
Sanders, as well as Democratic rival Martin O’Malley, have complained that DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has engineered the debate schedule to favor Hillary Clinton.
But now that the primary season is set to begin in earnest this week, with the Iowa caucuses scheduled for Monday night and the New Hampshire primary looming on Thursday, Sanders appears to have a lead in the polls in both of those sates. A new debate schedule, with later debates, may serve to put Clinton back in front on the Democratic side.
Early reports indicate that the new debate schedule was part of a deal worked out between the Clinton and Sanders camps. According to Fox News, Sanders agreed to a debate on Thursday in exchange for Clinton agreeing to the three later debates. O’Malley has also agreed to Thursday’s debate.
Speaking last Wednesday to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Clinton said she looks forward to Thursday’s proposed debate.
“What I’ve said to my campaign is that I would look forward to another debate. I am, you know, anxious, if we can get something set up, to be able to be there. And so let’s try to make it happen.”
Whether the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sanctions those scheduled debates remains to be seen, however. The stakes are high for participating in unsanctioned debates, and the DNC has made it clear that any candidate who participates in an unsanctioned debate won’t be invited to any further sanctioned ones. The next sanctioned Democratic debate sanctioned by the DNC is scheduled for February 11 in Wisconsin.
And Wasserman-Schulz has been clear that she doesn’t anticipate sanctioning any further debates.
“We have no plans to sanction any further debates before the upcoming first-in-the-nation caucuses and primary, but will reconvene with our campaigns after those two contests to review our schedule.”
And while she admits that the debates that have been held so far have brought in huge numbers of viewers, she insists that the debate schedule, as it stands now, is fine the way it is.
“We have consistently worked with our campaigns to ensure a schedule that is robust and that allows them to engage with voters in a variety of ways, whether through debates, forums, town halls, but also leaving them the flexibility to attend county fairs and living room conversations in states like Iowa and New Hampshire where direct voter contact matters so much.”
It’s not just Clinton and Sanders, however, who would like to see more debates. Democracy for America has, as of this writing, secured over 145,000 signatures on an online petition calling for the DNC to hold more debates. Further, some Democrats in New Hampshire, with the support of the Manchester Union Leader, have also called for another debate closer to the New Hampshire Primary.
“Our historic first-in-the-nation primary will benefit immensely from a final, prime-time reckoning between the three candidates.”
Notwithstanding the contested debate schedule, Sanders, Clinton and O’Malley are next scheduled to appear together at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Dinner of February 5.
[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]