ADEL, Iowa – Hillary Clinton called on Bernie Sanders to join a proposed Democratic debate next week in New Hampshire, telling MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that she is “anxious” to make the debate happen.
“I’m ready for the debate, and I hope Sen. Sanders will change his mind and join us,” she said in the interview, which will air on “Hardball” Wednesday night. “I think the DNC and the campaigns should be able to work this out. I’ve been for, you know, for a long time, that I’d be happy to have more debates, and I hope we can get this done.”
Asked if she wanted the Democratic National Committee to sanction the debate, Clinton replied, “I would like the chairman of the parties and the campaigns to agree we can debate in New Hampshire next week.”
NBC and the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper on Tuesday proposed sponsoring a debate Feb. 4, which would fall outside the original debate schedule sanctioned by the DNC.
Clinton and Martin O’Malley, the third candidate in the race, quickly said they would be open to joining, but Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said his candidate was not interested in an unsanctioned debate.
“The DNC has said it is not going to sanction any more debates until after February 9th. We look forward to working with the DNC and the other campaigns to schedule a series of debates to follow those currently scheduled. Our position will be that there should be at least three or four more,” Weaver said in a statement Tuesday night.
The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday on Clinton’s comments.The DNC sanctioned six debates and has drawn a hard line against adding any more to the schedule. And the committee has vowed to enforce an exclusivity clause, which would bar candidates from joining future sanctioned debates if they participate in an unsanctioned debate.
“We have no plans to sanction any further debates before the upcoming First in the Nation caucuses and primary,” DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Tuesday night. The DNC had no further comments on the debate Wednesday following Clinton’s comments.
The next sanctioned debate is schedule for Feb. 11 in Wisconsin, after the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire on Feb. 9.
Roles have been reversed in the politics of the Democratic debates. Front-runners typically prefer to limit the number of debates they participate in, and Clinton’s campaign had sought to keep the schedule small. Meanwhile, Sanders’ supporters pressured the DNC for more debates, flooding the committee with petitions and heckling Wasserman Schultz at party events.
Last week, Sanders told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he was open to more debates. “Well, count me in as one person – you know, if Secretary Clinton and Gov. O’Malley want to do it, I’m there. I love debates. I think they are a way to inform the American people of our positions and our differences. So, I think that is a great idea. So, I’m in. If the other candidates are in, you count me in,” Sanders said on Jan. 19.
But New Hampshire, Sanders has suddenly become the cautious front-runner. He is ahead in most polls and seems to have no desire to risk shaking up the race with a debate or giving Clinton a major platform to make his case in the days leading up to the critical primary.