MANCHESTER, Iowa — The campaigns of the two major candidates for the Democratic nomination have agreed to hold four more debates, sources from both the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns tell BuzzFeed News.
The details — where and when — remain unresolved, the Clinton and Sanders sources said. The Democratic National Committee announced on Sunday it will sanction a Feb. 4 debate in New Hampshire and the additional debates, pending an agreement by the campaigns on the details.
“Our Democratic candidates have agreed in principle to having the DNC sanction and manage additional debates in our primary schedule, inclusive of New Hampshire this week,” said DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “However, absent agreement on the details, we will give our campaigns the space to focus on the important work of engaging caucus goers in Iowa. We will reconvene negotiations and finalize the schedule with the agreement of our campaigns on Tuesday morning.”
Both sides have agreed to attend the New Hampshire debate, moderated by NBC News’ Chuck Todd and MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow. The New Hampshire debate would take place just days before the primary there.
Disagreements between Clinton’s and Sanders’ campaigns over the location and timing of additional debates have already spilled out into the open, with the Sanders campaign issuing a strongly-worded statement Saturday afternoon aimed at the Clinton campaign.
“We agreed pending an agreement on three future debates in March, April and May. Unfortunately, the Clinton campaign has not accepted debates we proposed on March 3 in Michigan and April 14 in New York,” Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver said in a statement. “They apparently agreed to May 24 in California. The Clinton campaign, after not accepting Michigan, now says they want it. We are pleased to do it on March 3 before the Michigan primary provided the Clinton campaign will agree to Brooklyn, New York, on April 14. Why won’t they debate in Brooklyn? What’s the matter with Brooklyn?”
Clinton’s campaign shot back with a press release of its own, saying, “There is nothing worse than a debate about debates.”
“The people of New Hampshire wanted a debate. We said Secretary Clinton would be there,” said Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. “The Sanders campaign said their candidate would only come if we agreed to three additional debates, one each in March, April, and May. We agreed to that. The Sanders campaign further asked that these debates not take place on weekends or holidays. We agreed to that as well, and offered date windows accordingly. The Sanders campaign proposal has been met in all respects. Now they refuse to take yes for an answer, apparently because they are intent on avoiding a debate in New Hampshire. Enough of the games.”
Podesta continued, “We made the modest suggestion that one of the three additional debates take place in Flint, Michigan, to shine a spotlight on what’s happening there and in places like Flint around the country. The Sanders campaign never responded. We’re not sure why, but if they’d rather not debate in Flint, we’re certainly willing to mutually agree on three other locations.”
Aides to Sanders campaign told BuzzFeed News earlier on Saturday that they are still concerned about the timing of any additional debates, insisting that those after the Feb. 4 face-off be as high-profile and positioned for a wide audience before the key nominating contests. Sanders aides have said they want the debates to happen before contests that will award a large percentage of total delegates.
Martin O’Malley’s campaign has expressed willingness to debate any time, anywhere.
A DNC official told BuzzFeed News that the Union Leader, originally a partner of the event with MSNBC, will not be a debate sponsor in New Hampshire under any agreement reached between the party and the campaigns. As for the expanded calendar, “still waiting for final sign off more generally from the campaigns on any debate(s),” the official told BuzzFeed News via text message.
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