MSNBC, Union Leader team up for unsanctioned Democratic debate
By Hadas Gold and Gabriel Debenedetti, Politico
01/26/16 03:32 PM EST
MSNBC and the New Hampshire Union Leader are planning an unsanctioned Democratic Debate, shortly before the New Hampshire primary.
The debate, moderated by “Meet the Press” anchor Chuck Todd and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow will take place Feb. 4 and would be the only debate between the Iowa caucus and before primary voting in New Hampshire on Feb. 9.
“Our readers have demanded a debate to help them see who is most fit to be the Democratic nominee for President,” Joseph W. McQuaid, president and publisher of the Union Leader said in a statement. “We were always concerned that this would have been the first time in 32 years without a Democratic debate before the New Hampshire primary. We are glad to partner with MSNBC to ensure Granite Staters have the information they need to make a critical decision on Feb. 9.”
The move comes as the Democratic National Committee has faced withering criticisms over their debate schedule, which has just six debates, three of which were scheduled over weekends, and after months of pressure from local Democrats, who have urged the DNC to add more events.
But the move — which was driven by the media organizers, said people close to the planning — also comes as some operatives near Clinton’s operation have quietly second-guessed their initial wish to hold fewer debates, now that Clinton has performed well in the events so far while remaining in tight contests with Sanders.
By the exclusivity rules set out by the DNC, any candidate who participates in an unsanctioned debate could be barred from the remaining sanctioned DNC debates — a Feb. 11 one hosted by PBS in Wisconsin, and the final debate on March 9 hosted by Univision and the Washington Post in Florida. Forums, such as the one hosted by CNN on Monday, don’t count as debates because of the different set ups in how candidates speak and interact with one another. But it is unclear if this rule would be enforced for this debate. Candidates have yet to confirm whether they will attend the event, though O’Malley’s campaign immediately released a statement cheering the announcement.
In an interview McQuaid said he doubts the DNC would bar the candidates from future debates if all three accept the MSNBC/Union Leader debate invitation.
“They could bar the candidates but after Iowa I think everything is going to be changed and up in the air and I can’t imagine that the DNC, no matter who’s camp they may be in would prevent this from happening. New Hampshire is going to be, I think more decisive than usual on the Democratic side,” McQuaid said.
If this comes to pass Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s incompetent leadership of the Democratic National Committee will have been repudiated by all three Presidential campaigns. Washington pols are justly noted for their shamelessness and ignorance but if Clinton drops the hammer on her it’s hard to imagine a scenario where she has any control or influence at all and she might as well resign from Congress entirely and slink back to Florida in disgrace as her poor performance so richly merits.