During an interview on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow pressed Hillary Clinton on the Democratic debate schedule and asked the front runner if she is behind the debates being sent to TV Siberia.
MADDOW: The sparse Democratic Party debate schedule this year, particularly when compared to the Republicans, a lot of people in the political press have ascribed that to your campaign, have ascribed that decision to your campaign essentially wanting a low-profile and spare debate schedule. Whether or not now looking back you think it was a good decision, is it true that your campaign advocated for a light schedule and particularly these debates being on in TV Siberia, on weekends and holidays?
CLINTON: Well, Rachel, I really don`t have any knowledge of that. I`m not saying that nobody representing me or the other campaigns didn`t express an opinion. But it was my understanding that in looking at the sequencing of these debates, looking at the numbers of people who watched back in `08, there was a decision to try to have a monthly debate once people were beginning to pay attention and try to drive more viewership. And actually I believe that we`ve had more viewers on average this year than we did back in `08.
So, I`m not going to substitute my judgment for whatever the thought process was. But as to when they`ve been scheduled, again, what I`m told is that they were partnered with broadcast and networks that wanted to provide the time. And indeed for most broadcast networks, Saturday or Sunday was preferable.
But because the viewership has been above average, I think people feel like there is a message in their process.
MADDOW: Well, if you and Senator Sanders and Governor O`Malley ever decide that you want more and you don`t want to negotiate, it you can all just show up here and I`ll help.
It has been clear since the beginning of the process that DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wanted to bury the 2016 debates. It is a move that was also used by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus with disastrous results.
Those who blame Hillary Clinton alone for the debate schedule are missing the point. The wheels were in motion to minimize the debates long before the 2016 candidates announced. Democrats and Republicans moved to a compressed primary schedule in 2014. Both parties were hoping that their front runners would cruise through a compressed schedule and have smooth sailing to the general election campaign.
As a general rule debates are bad for front runners. No front runner ever wants more debates. The Clinton campaign is the 900 lb. gorilla in the Democratic race. If they wanted more debates, the DNC would have scheduled more debates.
It was great of Maddow to ask the question that has been on the minds of most Democrats. The debate schedule has clearly been designed to minimize viewership. Hillary Clinton’s answer was a dodge that passed the buck to the DNC.
The compressed Republican schedule has given the GOP the Trump/Cruz fiasco, and if Bernie Sanders continues to rise, those who wanted to a compressed schedule may regret their decision to hide the debates.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association