In a statement this evening, the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign laid out their conditions for participating in the February 4 debate in New Hampshire. The Sanders campaign wants at least three more debates with none coming on a weekend or holiday.
Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement:
From the beginning of this campaign Sen. Sanders has called for more debates. 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. 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 Secretary Clinton wants more debates that’s great. We propose three additional debates. One in March, April and May and none on a Friday, Saturday or holiday weekend. 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.
Weaver was correct. Hillary Clinton does want this debate in New Hampshire because she is losing. When Clinton was winning everywhere by a big margin, she wasn’t as enthusiastic about the prospect of more debates. The good news is that if the Clinton campaign agrees to two additional debates on top of the New Hampshire debate, the DNC’s hand will be forced.
The reality is that if Clinton/Sanders/O’Malley agree to additional debates, there is nothing that the DNC can do to stop them. The DNC has threatened to bar candidates who participate in unsanctioned debates from participating in the sanctioned debates. The problem for the DNC is that they can’t ban all three candidates from the sanctioned debates. If they bar all three of the candidates, they will have no debates.
What is playing out in public is a high-stakes negotiation between the Clinton and Sanders campaign. The reality is that by following the RNC’s lead, the DNC completely bungled the debate schedule. The campaigns are making their move to take the schedule back, and the real winners if Clinton and Sanders can come to an agreement will be Democratic primary voters.