It looks like all of the Democratic primary candidates are officially in agreement that the DNC’s debate schedule was far too sparse. In addition to the town hall in Iowa on Monday night, Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have agreed to meet in New Hampshire on February 4th for another Democratic Debate, 5 days before the nation’s first primary in that state. Bernie Sanders has agreed to meet the candidates as well under certain conditions. MSNBC and the New Hampshire Union Leader will partner in hosting the event, with Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd as moderators.
The announcement, however, is currently unsanctioned by the DNC, as the debate is not in line with the official schedule that was set out by the committee at the beginning of the primary season. There is reason to believe that the DNC was not very happy with the candidates’ decision to meet in New Hampshire. DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz tweeted, following the announcement:
— Debbie Wasserman Schultz (@DWStweets) January 26, 2016
The DNC is currently enforcing an “exclusivity clause” with its candidates, meaning that any candidate who participates in a debate outside of the DNC’s official schedule will be excluded from any of the debates sanctioned by the DNC. This policy is quite strange, considering that it seems to imply that if Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, or Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley, or Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, decide to participate in a series of debates with one another that aren’t on the DNC’s schedule, both will be excluded from all the official debates, leaving only one of the candidates on the stage debating with themselves. This probably would never happen, but it’s funny to think about.
But of course, if all 3 candidates agree to do an unsanctioned debate, which is precisely what could happen now, then the DNC doesn’t really have any power to stop them. The exclusivity punishment doesn’t really work if all 3 of them have to be punished equally, so it looks like there isn’t anything preventing them from going forward with the new debate in New Hampshire.
One has to wonder why it took this long for the prospect of all 3 candidates–primarily Hillary Clinton–to finally undermine the DNC’s “exclusivity clause” and schedule a few debates of their own, outside their official schedule, considering that they’ve had this power all along.
Many people might have their own theories as to why this is the case, but regardless, this is undoubtedly great news for many voters, who need more debates in order to help them make a more confident and informed decision before their state’s primary. Joseph M. McQuaid, publisher and president of the New Hampshire Union Leader, reminded CNN that without this new debate, the 2016 Election would be “the first time in 32 years without a Democratic debate before the New Hampshire primary.”
Wasserman-Schultz has been heavily criticized for the DNC’s sparse debate schedule throughout the primary, not only for the small number of debates relative to previous years, but also for having been scheduled in what many considered to be spots unsuitable for what should be prime-time event. Thankfully, however, these problems will be addressed with the decision by all 3 candidates to host this debate before the New Hampshire primary.