- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Hillary Rodham Clinton and the other candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination will have an opportunity to face off in at least six debates, the Democratic National Committee announced Tuesday.

The six DNC-sponsored events will include debates in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

“We’ve always believed that we would have a competitive primary process, and that debates would be an important part of that process,” said DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “Our debate schedule will not only give Democratic voters multiple opportunities to size up the candidates for the nomination side-by-side, but will give all Americans a chance to see a unified Democratic vision of economic opportunity and progress — no matter whom our nominee may be.”

So far, only two Democratic candidates — Mrs. Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders — have announced their presidential run. A few others are eyeing the race, including former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

But Mrs. Clinton, who is the odds-on favorite to win the nomination and holds a commanding lead in every poll, would have the most to lose in a debate with Democratic rivals.

The DNC also said that it would exercise tight control over the debate schedule and demand that Democratic candidate and debate sponsors agree to a strict exclusivity agreement.

“Any candidate or debate sponsor wishing to participate in DNC debates, must agree to participate exclusively in the DNC-sanctioned process. Any violation would result in forfeiture of the ability to participate in the remainder of the debate process,” the party said in a statement.

The DNC’s power play on the debate schedule didn’t sit well with Team O’Malley.

“If Governor O’Malley decides to run, we will expect a full, robust and inclusive set of debates — both nationally and in early primary and caucus states,” said O’Malley spokeswoman Liz Smith. “This has been customary in previous primary seasons. In a year as critical as 2016, exclusivity does no one any favors.”

Mrs. Wasserman Schultz said that the DNC has already received a number of proposals and inquiries from potential debate sponsors. Senior DNC officials will now begin working directly with those groups to facilitate partnerships and discuss next steps. Additional details regarding debate partners, cities, dates, logistics, additional host states, and criteria for participation will be announced later in the campaign season, she said.

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