Sen. Bernard Sanders’ presidential campaign manager said Thursday that the Vermont senator is open to having more debates, but that they aren’t going to engage in a process where the only times debates are scheduled come when Hillary Clinton’s campaign feels like they’re under pressure.
“This is the issue: We’ve been living under this six debate schedule that was imposed on us from the beginning of this campaign,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“All through the fall, Senator Sanders called for more debates, and Governor O’Malley was calling for more debates, and Secretary Clinton’s campaign seemed to be very happy about how many debates we were having,” he said.
“But the dynamics in this race have changed, and so suddenly they want a new debate,” he said. “We’re happy to have a debate in New Hampshire, but we want to have debates going forward as well. We’re going to be in this all the way to the convention, and we want to make sure that people all across this country have a chance to see Senator Sanders.”
Mr. Weaver has proposed three additional debates: one in March, April, May and none on a Friday, Saturday or holiday weekend, with all three Democratic candidates invited. If the Clinton campaign would commit to that schedule, he said, they would ask the Democratic National Committee to arrange a debate in New Hampshire on Feb. 4.
“We are not going to engage in a process where the only time we schedule debates is when the Clinton campaign feels that they are under pressure and they need to have another debate,” he said.
MSNBC and the New Hampshire Union Leader announced plans earlier this week to host a debate not sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee on Feb. 4, after the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1 and before theFeb. 9 New Hampshire primary.
There are six DNC-sanctioned debates, and the party has faced accusations that it’s trying to limit the exposure of Mrs. Clinton with the schedule. Three of the four debates held so far have been on weekend nights.
The DNC said earlier this week that it doesn’t have any plans to sanction more debates before the New Hampshire primary, but that it would revisit the issue afterward.
The camps for both Mrs. Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have said they would be willing to participate in the debate next week in New Hampshire.
A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign said Thursday they are “glad that Senator Sanders has changed his mind about a debate next week in New Hampshire.”
“We have always been willing to add additional debates beyond the six that had been scheduled and look forward to starting discussions on scheduling debates in April and May,” said Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon.
Speaking on Concord News Radio Thursday, Mr. O’Malley’s New Hampshire state director John Bivona said having more debates shouldn’t come at the expense of holding up the one that might happen in the Granite State.
“We owe it to the people of New Hampshire to be at that debate,” Mr. Bivona said. “Governor O’Malley will be there. Secretary Clinton has indicated that she’ll be there. And we hope Senator Sanders will show up as well.”
• David Sherfinski can be reached at email@example.com.
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