Challenge for MSNBC’s Democratic Debate: Getting Bernie Onboard

By Mark Joyella 

MSNBC and the New Hampshire Union Leader shook up the Democratic presidential debate cycle with the announcement Tuesday they would host their own debate–unsanctioned by the Democratic National Committee–five days before voters cast their ballots in the nation’s first primary.

“Our readers have demanded a debate to help them see who is most fit to be the Democratic nominee for President,” said the Union Leader’s publisher, Joseph McQuaid. Under the DNC’s existing debate schedule, there would have been no debate among the Democratic candidates before the New Hampshire primary.

DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the DNC had no plans to allow the debate. Under party rules, candidates who participate in unsanctioned debates may be prohibited from taking part in future Democratic debates.


The catch, however, would be having each of the three candidates agree to participate in the MSNBC debate. So far Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have said they would, but the Union Leader reports the holdout is Bernie Sanders, “who said through a spokesman there should be three or four more debates, but he would not want to jeopardize his spot in other debates by taking part in an unsanctioned event.”

The moderators of the MSNBC debate would be Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow.