Thursday was a day of Democrats doing things that no one noticed, since the nation’s political bandwidth had been so completely commandeered by the first GOP presidential debate. In addition to the Democratic senators who traded cryptically timed dueling blog posts about their support and opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement, the Democratic National Committee chose Thursday to release details about their six sanctioned 2016 primary debates.
The Democratic candidates for president will not debate until Oct. 13, kicking off a schedule that looks nothing like the endless list of debates that stretched nearly a year during the Democrats’ last contested primary. With the experience of having Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton meet onstage more than two dozen times behind them, Democrats are taking a different, more streamlined approach—one that isn’t going over too well with the candidates trying to gain ground on front-runner Clinton.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who poses the most credible threat to Clinton and has been steadily climbing in early state polls, released a statement saying that he was “disappointed, but not surprised” by the DNC’s announcement:
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.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley was less diplomatic, accusing the DNC of orchestrating a “coronation” for Hillary Clinton by “rigging the process and cutting off debate,” according to the Hill.
The DNC’s standards for who will get into the debates are far more forgiving than the rigid Fox News rules that sent seven candidate to the kids’-table debate on Thursday. With only a requirement that a candidate register more than 1 percent support in three national polls, nearly all of the declared Democrats are likely to make it in, with the possible exception of former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee.
With the schedule out, Democrats now have more than two months to prepare for the first debate. By then, the Republican hopefuls will have met again on Sept. 16 at one of the party’s favorite debate venues, the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.