Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) insisted there’s nothing unfair about the party’s minuscule schedule of six sanctioned debates because candidates should be out shaking hands anyway.
Other Democrats, particularly former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, have complained that the debate schedule is nothing less than a coronation for the DNC’s chosen favorite, Hillary Clinton.
Without time in front of a national audience, the non-Clinton candidates don’t have much hope of gaining needed traction in the polls.
But Wasserman Schultz told CNN that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) rise shows that you don’t need debates to do well. Sanders has also said that the debate schedule needs to be significantly expanded.
“We’re thrilled that our candidates are coming at our debate process with energy and enthusiasm and looking forward to them, as we established the process we were going to go through to lead to six debates to have a sanctioned debate process at times so we could make sure there was control,” she said. “…It’s critical during the campaigning process, particularly in the early primary states that our candidates have an opportunity to have a chance to be in those retail settings where Iowa voters, New Hampshire voters kick the tires.”
“Look, a debate is not the only way in which you can reach a voter,” Wasserman Schultz added. “In fact, it’s really important as I started to say, that especially in the early primary states, the candidates have time to get out and campaign in a retail way. You can already see the enthusiasm that is building. Just one second — you can already see the enthusiasm that’s building. Bernie Sanders is drawing huge crowds.”
The chairwoman said candidates will “have a chance to draw contrast between the Republicans who want to build a wall with Canada and boot the immigrants out of the country.”
O’Malley told CNN that the DNC is definitely trying to stack the deck in Clinton’s favor.
“Who else will this help?” he said. “…Any candidate that participates in debates other than these sanctioned debates is going to be excluded from others. That’s a very undemocratic way to run the Democratic Party. And that’s why the members were so outraged when they were presented with this fiat.”
“…Apparently, this was a decision made simply by the chair, without consulting the members of the DNC.”
Wasserman Schultz insisted, “I have a party I have to run.”
“I have to simultaneously manage the nominating contest for our eventual nominee and get ready for the general election. There are lots of things that have to be done to make sure the national Democratic Party is ready to support our nominee,” she said.
“And so, like I said, we’re glad that the candidates are enthusiastic about our debates. That is one way they have an opportunity to reach voters and the six debates that we will have will be effective in helping them reach our voters in that way, and they’ll have lots of other chances to reach voters in other ways.”