Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) campaign is protesting Hillary Clinton being able to call up additional Democratic National Committee debates at will after the party put the kibosh on earlier, repeated requests from other candidates for more candidate face-offs.
In an interview aired Wednesday on MSNBC, Clinton said she was pushing for 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,” she said of getting everyone on board an additional New Hampshire debate added to the schedule next week.
“I’m ready for the debate, and I hope Senator Sanders will change his mind and join us. And I think the DNC and the campaign should be able to work this out. I’ve said for — you know, for a long time that I’d be happy to have more debates, and I hope we can get this done.”
NBC and New Hampshire’s Union-Leader newspaper would sponsor the Feb. 4 debate, not currently on the tight six-debate schedule authorized by the DNC.
“I don’t want to jump the gun and create more problems for everybody trying to get this worked out, so we can all come to agreement that the voters of New Hampshire and America deserve to see us, you know, debating before the New Hampshire primary,” Clinton said.
But Sanders’ camp said she doesn’t get debates at her beck and call.
“From the beginning of this campaign Sen. Sanders has called for more debates,” Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said in a statement last night. “Secretary Clinton has not. Now she is asking to change the rules to schedule a debate next week that is not sanctioned by the DNC.”
“Why is that? The answer is obvious. The dynamics of the race have changed and Sen. Sanders has significant momentum,” Weaver said. “Sen. Sanders is happy to have more debates but we are not going to schedule them on an ad hoc basis at the whim of the Clinton campaign.”
If Clinton wants more debates, he added, that’s awesome.
“We propose three additional debates. One in March, April and May and none on a Friday, Saturday or holiday weekend,” Weaver said. “And all of the three Democratic candidates must be invited. If the Clinton campaign will commit to this schedule, we would ask the DNC to arrange a debate in New Hampshire on Feb. 4.”
DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was Clinton’s campaign co-chair in 2008, said the party has “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.”
She noted that all three candidates are scheduled to appear Feb. 5 at the New Hampshire Democratic Party dinner.
“Our next DNC-sanctioned debate featuring our major candidates will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, hosted by PBS on Feb. 11, with another already scheduled for March 9th with Univision and the Washington Post,” Wasserman Schultz said. “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.”
Wasserman Schultz has bristled at past calls from Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to increase the number of debates — even a call from Sanders for primary debates including GOP and Dem candidates.
O’Malley’s campaign said if the Feb. 4 debate happens, he’ll acquiesce to Clinton’s demand.
“We owe it to the people of NH to be at that debate,”O’Malley for President New Hampshire State Director John Bivona said on a Concord radio program this morning. “Governor O’Malley will be there. Secretary Clinton has indicated that she will be there. And we hope Senator Sanders will be there as well.”