MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — The Democratic National Committee has agreed to sponsor four more Democratic debates, beginning with the MSNBC debate on Thursday moderated by Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow in New Hampshire.
Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have agreed to the schedule, which also adds a debate in Flint, Michigan on March 6, and then two more debates in April and May with details to come.
“Our Democratic candidates have asked the DNC to sanction and manage additional debates in our primary schedule," DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said. “We look forward to seeing them continuing to share Democrats' vision for the country.”
Sanders was a bit of a holdout to the MSNBC debate, but after refusing to commit to participate as recently as Tuesday evening, Sanders said on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" Wednesday that he would be there. "The answer is yes," Sanders said.
The debate, at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, will be the first time the two Democratic front-runners have gone head-to-head. The third candidate in the race, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, suspended his campaign Monday night after the Iowa caucuses.
The Democratic National Committee had for months refused to reconsider its official debate schedule, which featured only six sanctioned debates, and threatened that any candidate who participated in an unsanctioned debate would be barred from future official events.
Supporters of Sanders and O'Malley had been vocally protesting the schedule, claiming the national party was trying to protect Clinton by limiting the number of contests and scheduling debates on weekends, when viewership is lower. Clinton's campaign, as the front-runner, initially wanted fewer debates, but allies have more recently come to the conclusion that the format benefits her, especially in New Hampshire where she is behind in polls.
The candidates are expected to participate in three more debates on top of the two upcoming ones already sanctioned by the DNC, but they have not yet agreed to the details. Sanders wants a debate in Brooklyn, where Clinton's campaign is headquartered and in a state she represented in the Senate.
The four new debates will be added to the two already sanctioned, one on February 11 to air on the PBS News Hour, and the other on March 9th to air on Univision.
This story has been updated.