CNN adjusted the candidates’ criteria on Monday for its two-hour televised Democratic presidential debate, the first of the season, which will take place at 9 p.m. EST on October 13 at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel and casino.
The Hill is reporting that CNN has expanded the range of dates in which a candidate must meet a 1 percent minimum support requirement in 3 major national polls from 6 weeks prior to the debate to any time between August 1 to October 10 in order to include low-polling former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee. CNN has also tweaked the rules to include any qualified candidate that publicly announces his or her candidacy by the day of the debate, clearing a path for Vice President Joe Biden to participate if he decides to run.
In addition to Chafee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I- Vt.), former U.S. Senator Jim Webb, and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley have been invited to face off in the contest.
Though Vice President Biden has yet to decide whether he will enter the race, he has already received substantial levels of support in several qualified major national polls. A newly-released NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found Biden in third place with 17 percent support.
Speaking on the adjustments to accommodate potential candidate Joe Biden, former Democratic National Committee communications director Mo Elleithee, who was reportedly involved in planning the debates, told Politico, “I think it’s the right thing to do. Given everything that’s going on, no one wants to be accused of trying to keep any candidate off the stage. This ensures that no one is. Can you imagine any scenario where Biden announces his candidacy and is not allowed on that stage? It would more or less invalidate the debate if he announced and wasn’t on stage.”
University of Michigan director of debate Aaron Kall told The Hill, “Having candidates that don’t have anything to lose is potentially dangerous to front-runners. It only increases the chances of them trying to do a Hail Mary [pass] or land a zinger that can really hurt the leading candidates.”
The ratings-focused mainstream media hopes that Biden will jump in the race to set up a Clinton-Biden showdown. University of Virginia Center for Politics political analyst Geoffrey Skelley said, “There’s no question the media wants Biden to run; from the drama standpoint, having Biden and Clinton go at it really raises the bar.”
Skelley added, commenting on the inclusion of lower-polling candidates, “On the campaign trail [the Democratic candidates have] been a little reticent to overly criticize [Clinton] but they might if they realize this is their one shot. Sanders actually might benefit in that sense that if he is in a position where the three lower-tier guys are attacking Clinton.”
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper has been tapped to moderate the debate with help from correspondent Dana Bash, anchor Don Lemon, and CNN en Espanol anchor Juan Carlos.
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