ANKENY, Iowa — MSNBC and The New Hampshire Union Leader will host an unsanctioned Democratic debate in New Hampshire on Feb. 4 moderated by NBC News’ Chuck Todd and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, the Union Leader confirmed with an announcement Tuesday.
BuzzFeed News reported the details of their plans earlier Tuesday.
The NBC-Union Leader debate is scheduled to take place five days before New Hampshire primary voting on Feb. 9.
By the end of the day, Tuesday, the debate seemed to be a trial balloon that would fall swiftly back to earth. Hillary Clinton’s campaign said she would participate only if the debate is sanctioned by the DNC, which so far, it isn’t. There are few signs to suggest it ever will be. In a statement Tuesday, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz said there was no plans to sanction new debates at this time.
“We have no plans to sanction any further debates before the upcoming First in the Nation caucuses and primary, but will reconvene with our campaigns after those two contests to review our schedule,” she said in a statement.
Sanders was prodded by one of his biggest boosters, Democracy For America, to sign onto the debate shortly after it was announced. The group citied 145,940 signatures it had collected from Democrats eager for more debates. One was from former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who backs Sanders.
The effort did not convince Sanders to sign on to the debate.
“DNC has said this would be an unsanctioned debate so we would not want to jeopardize our ability to participate in future debates,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver told the AP.
Sanders officials said they would continue to press the DNC to add several more sanctioned debates. O’Malley was quick to sign on to the debate and he called on his fellow Democratic candidates to do the same.
The Democratic National Committee scheduled six debates between the Democratic candidates. That number was enforced by a rule barring any candidate who participated in a so-called “unsanctioned” debate outside those six from participating in any of the DNC forums. The next DNC debate will take place Feb. 11, after the New Hampshire primary.
Wasserman Schultz has repeatedly defended the party calendar in interviews.
But there has been growing frustration among campaign officials, voters and the press about the Democratic calendar, which put many of the debates outside traditional primetime. On Jan. 16, the New York Times cited anonymous Hilary Clinton aides lamenting not asking for more debates. Her supporters feel she has done well against Sanders head-to-head. Sanders and O’Malley aides have said they want more debates for months.
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