Democrats agree to debate in New Hampshire this week — but without the Union Leader

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee. –Mic Smith / AP

After a contentious week debating debates, the Democratic National Committee said Sunday it will sanction the recently announced primary debate in New Hampshire, five days before the state’s first-in-the-nation primary February 9.

The Thursday night debate will be hosted by MSNBC at 9 p.m. at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, the network announced Sunday, and will include all three Democratic candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley.

The DNC said it will sanction Thursday’s debate, as well as three additional debates in the following months, but will wait until after the Iowa caucuses Monday to iron out 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,’’ DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement Sunday. “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.’’

The announcement comes after months of pressure from activists and a week of back-and-forth negotiations among the Clinton and Sanders campaigns and the DNC.

A notable absence from Sunday’s announcement was the New Hampshire Union Leader. The paper was originally a co-host of Thursday’s debate, but will no longer be a sponsor of the event. The paper’s publisher, Joe McQuaid, said Sunday the change was made at the behest of the DNC:

“Our readers have demanded a debate to help them see who is most fit to be the Democratic nominee for President,’’ said Joseph W. McQuaid, president and publisher of the Union Leader. “We were concerned that this would have been the first time in 32 years without a Democratic debate before the New Hampshire primary. We aren’t sponsoring because, for reasons not clear to us, the DNC insisted MSNBC be the sole sponsor. MSNBC has asked our readers to participate by asking questions during the debate, in keeping with an important tradition of voters being able to directly get answers from candidates. Our goal has always been to make sure Granite Staters have the information they need to vote on Feb. 9. While our name will not be on the banner, we say: Mission accomplished.’’

As BuzzFeed News reports, the Clinton and Sanders campaigns continue to spar over the time and location of the three future debates.

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