The Republican Party carefully thought through its debate process for 2016, seeking to ensure a good mix of candidates, avoid too much friendly fire, and prevent a circus-like atmosphere. Instead, it’s getting Donald Trump onstage Thursday night in Cleveland.
Can the Democrats do better? The party announced its own primary-debate calendar on Thursday. Here’s the schedule:
- October 13: CNN—Nevada
- November 14: CBS/KCCI/Des Moines Register—Des Moines, Iowa
- December 19: ABC/WMUR—Manchester, New Hampshire
- January 17: NBC/Congressional Black Caucus Institute—Charleston, South Carolina
- February or March: Univision/Washington Post—Miami
- February or March: PBS—Wisconsin
Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz laid out some more details here.
So far the reaction has been … not great, at least from candidates not named Hillary Clinton. Her rivals want more debates, and they want a more open process for them. Martin O’Malley’s campaign loudly protested the rules, and said it may seek to set up debates outside of the auspices of the party. (The party has threatened to exclude candidates who participate in unsanctioned events.) Senator Bernie Sanders issued a statement saying he was “disappointed, but not surprised,” by the schedule. “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.”