With the New Hampshire primary set for next Tuesday, will the Democratic candidates hold another debate before voters hit the polls? Until last week, the answer to that question would have been no. But the situation has shifted and New Hampshire voters as well as political junkies will get not one but two opportunities to evaluate Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and dark horse candidate Martin O’Malley on a New Hampshire stage, and on television, ahead of the February 9 balloting.
The New Hampshire primary, of course, is the first actual ballot-box primary election of the 2016 presidential campaign, after the Iowa caucuses which were held on Monday, February 1.
The Democratic National Committe had previously given the green light to a mere six debates among the Democratic contenders. But last week, cable news network MSNBC and the Manchester Union-Leader newspaper announced that they would team up to stage a “rogue” unsanctioned debate before the New Hampshire primary.
UPDATE 12:50 a.m.: The MSNBC debate in New Hampshire will, for the first time, feature a one-on-one matchup between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, after third Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley suspended his campaign after finishing a distant third in the Iowa caucuses Monday night.
The proposed MSNBC debate would be moderated by Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s staple evening program The Rachel Maddow Show, and Chuck Todd, chief emcee of the long-running Sunday morning Meet The Press program on the main NBC network.
But by Monday, the DNC had not only given its official seal of approval to the MSNBC/Union-Leader debate — but announced that after meeting with the candidates campaigns on Tuesday, February 2, as many as three additional debates in addition to the Thursday MSNBC debate are expected to be added to the campaign schedule.
Bernie Sanders, for one, welcomed the new, expanded debate lineup, as he told the Reuters news agency in the below video.
The MSNBC debate, however, will actually be the second chance for New Hampshire voters to listen to pitches from the three Democratic candidates. The night before the debate, CNN will host another “town hall” format candidates night, similar to the Iowa Democratic town hall staged by CNN on Monday, January 25.
In the town hall event, Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley will take the stage individually, and will not have the chance to face or question each other directly. But they will take questions directly from host Anderson Cooper, as well as from actual New Hampshire voters in the audience.
The debates represent a significant opportunity for Hillary Clinton who, despite maintaining a comfortable polling lead nationwide over Bernie Sanders, trails the upstart Vermont Senator by a sizable margin in New Hampshire. Unlike in Iowa, where leading into the caucuses the contest appeared close and difficult to predict, Clinton appears headed to a decisive defeat in the nation’s first primary.
The Real Clear Politics poll average had Sanders leading Clinton by 18 percentage points, 55.5 percent to 37.5 percent as of January 31, with former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley barely registering at two percent.
A CNN poll sees Sanders leading by 23 points, while a poll conducted by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell gives Sanders a whopping 31 percentage point lead in New Hampshire.
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The election-prediction site FiveThirty-Eight uses its own statistical formula to project Sanders with a seemingly slam-dunk 96 percent chance of winning the New Hampshire primary. Using its “polls plus” formula which takes endorsements as well as polls into account, Sanders is still the overwhelming favorite with an 87 percent chance of victory.
The MSNBC debate and CNN Town Hall will be the last real chance for Hillary Clinton to cut into that impressive Bernie Sanders lead in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Democratic debate is scheduled for Thursday, February 4, at the university of New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire. The debate is set to begin at 9 p.m. Eastern Time, 6 p.m. Pacific, and will stream via the MSNBC site at this link. The CNN Town Hall on Wednesday, February 3, airs at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, 5 p.m. Pacific, from Derry, New Hampshire, and will stream via CNN Go at this link.
[Featured Photo By Andrew Burton/Getty Images]