The busy primary debate season is set to start. Both the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) have announced their schedules for the primary debates. The RNC announced there would be nine debates back in January, the dates or months they would be held, and which news outlet would be hosting then. The DNC with their small field waited to see if there would even be enough candidates to hold debates, and announced there would be six debates on May 5, 2015.
The RNC has no problem with having enough candidates in fact the problem is the GOP field is too large, about 20 candidates. The first two news outlets hosting the debates Fox News and CNN have announced that they decided to have only the top 10 candidates in the polls debate, but will provide either an additional or scheduled time for the remaining candidates.
The DNC announced their schedule on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 setting the stage for six debates.
There will be debates in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement that the debates “give voters ample opportunity to see candidates side-by-side, while remaining manageable for all of the candidates.”
The Democrats waited longer than the Republicans to announce their schedule, because of the small field of candidates. Before the end of April, it did not seem as there would be any more declared candidates willing to challenge frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Than Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders declared his candidacy at the end of April, and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is declaring his candidacy in the end of May, allowing a full and lively debate.
Clinton welcomed the full the debates, posting on Twitter, “While GOP debates the same failed policies, Democrats will debate how to help families get ahead. Looking forward to a real conversation.” Clinton however, never said if she would participate in all the debates. The DNC plans to announce the debate dates later on.
Meanwhile the RNC announced on January 16, 2015 that there would be nine to 12 debates depending on how the primaries go, giving a rough schedule of who would be hosting them and when they would occur and in what state. The number of debates set this upcoming cycle is far lower than the 20 debates in 2012, which strained the campaign’s focus, beating Obama.
At the time of the announcement RNC Chairman Reince Priebus stated, “By constructing and instituting a sound debate process, it will allow candidates to bring their ideas and vision to Americans in a timely and efficient way. This schedule ensures we will have a robust discussion among our candidates while also allowing the candidates to focus their time engaging with Republican voters.”
The RNC debates faced a problem; how or if they would accommodate the large Republican field that may end up with 20 candidates. Both Fox News and CNN, which are hosting the first two debates have announced their method of dealing with the large field, and it is based on standings in legitimate national polls.
Fox News announced their criteria on Wednesday May 20, the news channel that is hosting the first debate on Aug. 6 in Cleveland, Ohio at Quicken Loans Arena in conjunction with social media platform Facebook, determined only candidates who are in the top 10 of the last five national polls before the debate will be allowed to participate.
Ties will not be counted individually, meaning more than 10 candidates will debate. The polls have to be “major, nationally recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques” and the cut-off date is Aug. 4 at 5 p.m. ET. The debates will also only allow declared candidates who have filed their paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.
CNN also announced on May 20 that they are cutting off the debate participants based on who is in the top 10 in the polls. The debate will be held on Sept. 16, 2015 sponsored and held at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
Both networks are providing supplemental coverage for the candidates who do not reach the poll threshold. Fox News did not detail their coverage, but CNN is planning a second debate with the remaining candidates who are not in the top 10, but still poll one percent and higher. RNC chairman Priebus issued statements after both decisions saying that RNC “support[s] and respect[s] the decision.”
Based on poll numbers FiveThirtyEight determined Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker would make the cut for the debate. Both Rick Perry and Rick Santorum are on the line. While John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, and Lindsey Graham would be in the second bunch out of the top ten, but polling above one percent.
RNC Debate Schedule
August 6, 2015: Cleveland, Ohio. Fox News, Quicken Loans Arena [unconfirmed].
September 16, 201: Simi Valley, California. CNN, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
October 2015: Colorado, CNBC
November 2015: Wisconsin, Fox Business
December 15, 2015: Nevada, CNN/Salem Radio
January 2016: Iowa, Fox News
February 6, 2016: Manchester, New Hampshire. ABC News
February 13, 2016: South Carolina, CBS News
February 26, 2016: Houston, Texas, NBC News/Telemundo/National Review
March 2016: Location TBD, Fox News
March 2016: Location TBD. CNN/Salem Radio
Date TBD, Location TBD Conservative Media debate
DNC Debate Schedule
August/September 2015: Iowa
August/September 2015: New Hampshire
October/November 2015: South Carolina
November/December 2015: Nevada
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.