Too Few Democratic Debates? Sanders Looks To Debate Republicans

Sep 2, 2015
Originally published on September 2, 2015 8:13 am

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says he's very disappointed that the Democratic Party has scheduled only four candidate debates before the Iowa caucuses are held on Feb. 1.

So the Sanders campaign is considering a plan to set up their own debates with some of the Republican candidates.

The first Democratic presidential debate doesn't take place until the middle of October. Then there's only one debate per month scheduled in November, December and January.

Jeff Weaver is Sanders' campaign manager. He says he's written to the Democratic National Committee urging them to set up some additional debates. But Weaver says the DNC isn't interested in his proposal.

"We would have liked to have seen more debates... It's one of the ways in which people get to see the candidates and compare and contrast the candidates," Weaver says.

Sanders isn't the only Democratic candidate seeking more debates. Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley has sharply criticized the DNC for its limited debate schedule and he's hinted that the party is trying to protect Hillary Clinton.

Retired Middlebury College political science professor Eric Davis says Sanders and O'Malley have a legitimate gripe. Davis notes that the December debate will be held the Saturday night before Christmas - hardly a prime time for viewers.

"These candidates that consider the debates important for getting exposure for them and their ideas and forcing front runners to come on a platform and be confronted — I think they have very legitimate, very legitimate, concerns," says Davis.

To deal with this situation, the Sanders campaign is looking at the possibility of organizing its own debates with various Republican candidates.

"In our view it's important to the American people to see that kind of sharp contrast of these issues that Bernie's talking about versus the views that the Republicans hold,"  Weaver says.

Weaver says this plan is still in the early stages but he says it's a top priority for Sanders.

"You obviously have to find somebody who wants to debate with you and then you have to find someone to host it. All the candidates are running around — they have their own schedules, so it is something that we are working on," Weaver says.

"No promises, obviously, but it is something that Bernie has expressed a strong interest in doing." Weaver says.

Weaver says he would like these additional debates to focus on a specific topic such as the economy, the environment and the future of Social Security and Medicare.

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