With the first Republican debate of the 2016 presidential election cycle only hours away, the Democratic National Committee announced the slate of debates it plans to sponsor during the coming months. And some of its candidates aren’t very happy about it.
The DNC said that beginning in October it would sanction one debate per month until primaries begin, for a total of six. The GOP, by contrast, has 11 debates on the schedule (12 if you count tonight’s early meeting between the candidates who didn’t qualify to be on the big stage.)
“This debate schedule will provide multiple opportunities for our candidates to engage in a rigorous discussion, not only with each other, but also to show the American people where Democrats stand,” said DNC Chair and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in an announcement posted on Medium.
Both parties are paring back the number of debates. The last time the Democrats didn’t run an incumbent, 2008, the party scheduled 16. In 2012 the Republicans hosted an unwieldy 20 of them, down from 23 in 2008.
The drop into single digits, though, is raising protest from candidates like former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, neither of whom enjoys the sort of total name recognition that frontrunner Hillary Clinton does.
O’Malley went on the attack on Twitter, going after the DNC directly. However, his assertion that the DNC is “not in charge” of organizing the Democratic debate schedule is probably open to question.
In a news release, O’Malley groused that the schedule “seems geared toward limiting debate and facilitating a coronation.”
Sanders said he was also unhappy with the plan, and would press for more debates. “At a time when many Americans are demoralized about politics and have given up on the political process, I think it’s imperative that we have as many debates as possible – certainly more than six. I look forward to working with the DNC to see if we can significantly expand the proposed debate schedule.”