CNN to host first of six Democratic presidential debates. Is it enough?

The O'Malley and Sanders campaigns are both pressing for more debates. 

Jim Young/Reuters
U.S. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (R) is joined on stage by Martin O’Malley (C) and Bernie Sanders for the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, United States, July 17, 2015.

Hours before the Republican presidential candidates take the debate stage in Ohio, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced its primary debate schedule, with the first debate to take place on Oct 13 in Nevada, and to be hosted by CNN.

For those keeping track, the number of debates is not a surprise. The DNC announced back in June that it would sanction six presidential debates. At the time, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement the debates would begin in the fall of 2015 “when voters are truly beginning to pay attention.” 

“Our debate schedule will not only give Democratic voters multiple opportunities to size up the candidates for the nomination side-by-side," she said, "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.”

But shots were fired Thursday from campaigns that feel the slim schedule unfairly favors frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley’s campaign called the debate schedule "ridiculous". In comments on the campaign trail in Iowa, Mr. O'Malley said, “I want to say right off the bat here, that to those in Washington who think they can limit the number of debates ... they’re gonna have another thing coming when they talk to the people of Iowa.”

He continued, “Because these are the issues about which we need to have not just one debate, not just two, but many debates. Because those debates will shape the future of the country we give our kids. Don’t you agree?”

O'Malley is polling in the single digits, and about 50 points behind Clinton.

O'Malley senior strategist Bill Hyers called the debate schedule "one of the slimmest that I have ever seen," in an interview with ABC News. He added, "What they’re proposing does not give you, the voters, ample opportunity to hear from the Democratic candidates for President."

Sen. Bernie Sanders said he was "disappointed, but not surprised" by the debate schedule in a statement today. The candidate from Vermont started a petition in June, calling on the DNC to sanction debates "early and often", but was rebuked when the DNC announced its plans.

"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," Senator Sanders said.

The Democrats held 15 primary debates in 2004, and 25 presidential debates in the 2008 election cycle, and they are hosting about half of the 11 debates that the GOP plans to hold throughout the primaries.

Here's the full list of Democratic debates:

  • October 13 – CNN – Nev.
  • November 14 – CBS/KCCI/Des Moines Register – Des Moines, Iowa
  • December 19 – ABC/WMUR – Manchester, N.H.
  • January 17 – NBC/Congressional Black Caucus Institute – Charleston, S.C.
  • February or March – Univision/Washington Post – Miami, Fla.
  • February or March – PBS – Wis.
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