Yesterday some news broke that two vice chairs of the DNC had called for adding more debates to the suspiciously small democratic debate schedule that been set and much talked about. Today Debbie Wasserman Schultz threw water on the idea of having more debates.
Speaking at a breakfast with reporters hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Wasserman Schultz said,
“We’re having six debates–period,” the Florida congresswoman said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington, repeating that pledge several times over the course of an hour.
“We’re not changing the process. We’re having six debates,” she added. “We’re having six debates and the candidates will be uninvited from any subsequent debates if they accept an invitation to a debate outside the six DNC-sanctioned debates.”
While defending the schedule she said having just the six debates offered plenty of opportunity for the candidates to distinguish themselves, and that too many debates would be a burden on the candidates, pulling them off the campaign trail and eating up valuable resources and time.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, both of whom are DNC vice-chairs, wrote a joint Facebook post urging the national party to add more debates and to drop the threat of exclusion for candidates that participate in unsanctioned debates.
Speculation that Clinton is behind the light debate schedule has been fueled by the fact that in 2008 she and her camp pressured Obama and his camp to add more debates, even going so far as to insinuate that having less debates in “Un-American”.
In recent weeks, pressure has been building on the DNC to grow the debate schedule. The national party has sanctioned six debates, a dramatic cutback from 2008, when there were about two-dozen.
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley has been railing against the national party, calling the debate process “rigged” and claiming that the DNC was “facilitating a coronation” for frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
O’Malley’s lawyer has challenged the legality of the DNC’s “exclusivity clause,” which states that any candidate who participates in an unsanctioned debate will be barred from attending future sanctioned debates.
He is urging his supporters to rally outside DNC headquarters next week along with an outside group called #AllowDebate that has the same aim.
While Sanders has been a little less vocal than O’Malley in his criticism of the schedule, supporters of Sanders, have mobilized thousands of grassroots supporters to lobby the DNC for more debates. Even calling for Wasserman Shultz to step down.
Clinton herself is now suggesting that she would be open to having more debates if that’s what the party committee decides to do. Earlier she and her camp had indicated that they were just fine with only six debates. Back in 2008 Obama and his camp played a bigger role in the debate schedule than Clinton claims to be playing this election.
Wasserman Schultz on Thursday said she consulted with past chairmen and current DNC vice-chairs before settling on the number of debates.
Regarding the exclusivity clause, Wasserman Schultz said it was to ensure the “debate process doesn’t get out of control,” citing 2008, when the party sanctioned six debates but the candidates participated in about two dozen.
“If you don’t have the national party put a reasonable number of debates on the schedule and insist that the number is adhered to, it starts to spiral out of control and the entire contest becomes built around the debate schedule,” she said.