Democrats Continue Debate Over Debates

Aug 11, 2015

While Republican candidates for president have so far logged two debates (and one forum) this election cycle, Democrats are arguing over the timing and number of their own primary debates.

The Democratic National Committee last week released a schedule of six debates for the party's presidential candidates, running from October through March 2016. The events will take place in Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Wisconsin.Under the DNC's rules, candidates who participate in debates outside of these half dozen will be barred from this "official" debate series.

Several candidates, however, want more chances to debate each other. Martin O'Malley, for instance, has strongly criticized the DNC's schedule and terms from the onset. Yesterday, his campaign's lawyer said the DNC's "exclusivity" requirement is "unprecedented and legally unenforceable." 

O'Malley has also spoken with other campaigns to organize alternative debates.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has said he'd like independent interest groups, including labor unions and women's groups, to host their own debates for the Democrats.

Low-profile candidates like O'Malley typically welcome more debates, as they provide an opportunity to raise their profile with voters and place them on the same stage as better known candidates like, say, Hillary Clinton.

On the other side of the ballot, the Republican National Committee has scheduled 12 debates for its candidates this election cycle -- and that doesn't include the "undercard" debate of lower-polling candidates that preceded the first official debate held last week. In contrast, Republican candidates submitted to 27 debates in the 2012 presidential primary.