Maybe trying to steal a little Republican thunder, the Democratic National Committee unveiled plans today to hold six presidential debates starting this fall, with the first scheduled for Oct. 13 in Nevada in a primary process that's far less crowded than the GOP side. The debates, said DNC chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, will "give caucusgoers and primary voters ample opportunity to hear from our candidates about their vision for our country's future." The details:
- Who's in? Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee are scheduled to participate. Joe Biden's staff has been kept informed about scheduling, but, well, he's not officially running yet.
- When and where: Four debates are scheduled in early primary states before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1. Dates for the final two gatherings, planned for Wisconsin and Miami, have not been set, but the DNC said they will be held in February or March. Other forums will be held in Charleston, SC; Des Moines, Iowa; and Manchester, NH.
- Who's griping: Both Sanders and O'Malley are pushing for more official forums to challenge frontrunner Clinton, whom they lag behind in fundraising and organization. "It would be very foolish ... for us to be the party that limits debates, circle the wagons, and try to prevent a discussion of the issues," said O'Malley.
- About that frontrunner: "She prides herself in doing very well in debates," says Clinton's chief strategist. "It's a good opportunity to get attention on issues that are front and center in the lives of Americans."
- Remember 2008? Clinton participated in 19 face-offs with Barack Obama, four of which had already taken place by this point in the primary calendar.
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