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Democratic Party presidential debates, 2016

The 2016 Democratic Party presidential debates will occur among candidates in the campaign for the Democratic Party's nomination for the President of the United States in the 2016 presidential election. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced on May 5, 2015, that there would be 6 debates, in comparison to the 26 debates and forums that were part of the 2008 presidential campaign.[1]

On August 6, 2015, the DNC announced the locations for all six debates, with exact venues still to be determined, and the specific dates for the first four debates.[2] Two forums, in which candidates do not respond directly to each other, were later also announced, with the support of the DNC.[3]


  • Schedule 1
  • Summaries 2
    • October 13, 2015 – Las Vegas, Nevada 2.1
    • November 6, 2015 – Rock Hill, South Carolina 2.2
    • Mid-November 2015 – 2.3
    • November 14, 2015 – Des Moines, Iowa 2.4
    • December 19, 2015 – Manchester, New Hampshire 2.5
    • January 17, 2016 – Charleston, South Carolina 2.6
    • February 11, 2016 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2.7
    • March 9, 2016 – Miami, Florida 2.8
  • Criticism and controversy 3
    • Number of debates 3.1
      • Black Lives Matter debate 3.1.1
    • Candidates invited to debate 3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Map of United States showing sites of 2016 Democratic primary debates
Las Vegas
CBS News
Des Moines
ABC News
NBC News
Sites of the 2016 Democratic primary debates
Note - The schedule of debates may change.
Debates among candidates for the 2016 Democratic Party U.S. presidential nomination
No. Date Time Place Host Invitees
 P  Participant.     I  Invitee (to a future debate).     N  Non-invitee.
 A  Absent invitee.  O  Out of race (exploring or withdrawn).
Chafee Clinton Lessig O'Malley Sanders Webb
1 Oct. 13, 2015 5:30 p.m. PDT Wynn Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV
CNN/Facebook P P N P P P
F1 Nov. 6, 2015 8 p.m. EST Winthrop University
Rock Hill, SC
F2 Nov. 2015 virtual O I O I I O
2 Nov. 14, 2015 Drake University
Des Moines, IA
The Des Moines Register
3 Dec. 19, 2015 Manchester, NH ABC News/WMUR-TV O O O
4 Jan. 17, 2016 Charleston, SC NBC News/Congressional
Black Caucus Institute
5 Feb. 11, 2016 Milwaukee, WI PBS O O O
6 Mar. 9, 2016 Miami Dade College
Miami, FL
The Washington Post
       = event completed
*^ Invited to at least one debate listed above:   Former Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of New York  • Prof. Lawrence Lessig of Massachusetts  • Former Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland  • Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont  • Former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia


October 13, 2015 – Las Vegas, Nevada

Candidate Airtime
Clinton 31:05
Sanders 28:05
O'Malley 17:56
Webb 15:35
Chafee 9:11

The first debate began on October 13, 2015, at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas at 8:30 p.m. and ended at 11:00 p.m. Eastern time.[4] It aired on CNN and was broadcast on radio by Westwood One.[5] Anderson Cooper was the moderator of the debate,[6] with Dana Bash and Juan Carlos Lopez asking additional questions and Don Lemon presenting questions submitted by voters via Facebook.[5]

To be invited to the debate, a candidate had to achieve an average of at least 1% in three recognized national polls released between August 1 and October 10. In addition, a candidate had to either file a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission or declare that one would be filed by October 14, the day after the debate.[7] The latter criterion would have accommodated Vice President Joe Biden had he decided to enter the presidential race as late as the day of the debate.[5] CNN had an extra lectern available to install for Biden, but he took no action to enter the campaign before the debate.[8]

Analysis on the debate was largely mixed regarding who, between the top two candidates, won. Some analysts from CNN and BBC viewed Clinton as the winner,[9][10] while other publications such as The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and the Fox News Channel, claimed that Sanders was the winner.[11][12][13] Conversely, Chafee, O'Malley and Webb were all widely regarded as the "losers".[13] One of the most memorable moments from the debate, which drew an average of 15.3 million viewers, a record for a Democratic debate,[14] came when Sanders replied to a question about Clinton's email controversy that the American people were "sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails", which drew cheers and applause from the audience and a smile and handshake between the two candidates.[15] In regards to social media, Sanders had the biggest gains of the night on Twitter and Facebook, with an increase of 46,000 new followers and 35,000 new likes, respectively; over the course of the night, he was also the most-searched candidate on Google. Conversely, Clinton had the biggest gains on Instagram, with 25,000 likes for her photograph of her podium just before the debate started.[16] It was noted that Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, who was live-Tweeting during the entire debate and mocking the candidates, gained more Twitter followers over the course of the night than all of the five candidates combined, with over 70,000 new followers.[17]

With the focus primarily being on Clinton and Sanders, a majority of subsequent fact-checking in the aftermath of the debate was in regards to comments made by the two of them. Fact-checking by the Associated Press and USA Today pointed out mistakes in both of their presentations: Specifically, Clinton was considered inconsistent in many of her policy stances, particularly in regards to the Obama administration's handling of the Syrian Civil War as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that Clinton supported as Secretary of State, but changed to opposing while a candidate.[18] In contrast, Sanders was pointed out as making economic claims based on outdated information, particularly in regards to how much of America's GDP actually goes to the wealthiest in the country.[19]

November 6, 2015 – Rock Hill, South Carolina

Rachel Maddow has been selected to moderate the First in the South Candidates Forum with Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley, to be held in South Carolina on November 6, co-sponsored by the Democratic Parties of 13 southern states.[20] Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb were also invited, but their campaigns never responded to the invitations,[21] and both have since withdrawn from the race.

Mid-November 2015 –

On October 21, 2015, MoveOn announced that it would host a candidate forum to be recorded and aired online in mid-November. Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Lawrence Lessig, Martin O'Malley, and Bernie Sanders were invited, with Sanders the first to confirm his participation. The announcement came amid ongoing unrest within the Democratic party over the unusually low number of Democratic debates allowed by the DNC.[3] Although this was the first forum between the candidates that invited Lessig, he dropped out of the race shortly before the forum was to be held.[22]

November 14, 2015 – Des Moines, Iowa

The second debate is scheduled for November 14, 2015, at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. It will air on CBS News and will also be broadcast by KCCI and The Des Moines Register. This will be the first debate to be broadcast over nationwide network television, all previous debates having gone over cable.

The moderators are Cynthia Fodor of KCCI, with participation by Alyx Sacks of KCCI.

December 19, 2015 – Manchester, New Hampshire

The third debate—the final one in 2015—is scheduled for December 19, 2015, in Manchester, New Hampshire. It will air on ABC News and will also be broadcast by WMUR-TV.

January 17, 2016 – Charleston, South Carolina

The fourth debate—the first debate of 2016—is scheduled for January 17, 2016, in Charleston, South Carolina, and will air on NBC News. It will also be broadcast by the Congressional Black Caucus.

February 11, 2016 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The fifth debate is scheduled to be held on February 11, 2016, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and will air on PBS.

March 9, 2016 – Miami, Florida

The sixth and final debate is scheduled to be held on March 9, 2016, at Miami Dade College[23] in Miami, Florida, and will air on Univision. It will also be broadcast by The Washington Post.

Criticism and controversy

Number of debates

Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley have criticized the DNC's debate schedule for being particularly sparse compared to 2008 - six debates versus 26.[24][25] Nor are other debates likely - Democratic Party candidates are not allowed to participate in non-sanctioned debates if they want to participate in the official DNC debates.[26]

Criticism over the limited number of debates reached a peak at the DNC's national meeting in Minneapolis on August 28. State Senator Martha Fuller Clark, vice chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, reportedly had an "intense discussion" about the number of debates with DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.[27] During the national meeting, candidate Martin O'Malley criticized DNC officials for the lack of debates. Cecil Benjamin, chair of the Democratic Party of the US Virgin Islands, interrupted the meeting to offer a motion to increase the number of debates; the motion received applause and cheers from the audience.[28]

In early September, DNC vice chairs Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and former Mayor of Minneapolis RT Rybak released a statement calling for more debates and for releasing the restrictions imposed to keep candidates from participating in non-DNC debates.[29] Gabbard claimed that she had been disinvited from the first debate for her protestations, which Schultz and the DNC have denied occurred. Former DNC chair Howard Dean expressed his disappointment in the rule barring candidates from non-DNC debates, saying "It's not right."[30] A small protest took place outside the DNC headquarters in Washington DC on September 16 calling for more debates.[31] On September 18, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi echoed calls for more debates in an interview with The Los Angeles Times.[32]

On September 19, 2015, during her speech at the New Hampshire Democratic Party convention, DNC chair Wasserman Schultz was heckled with shouts for more debates.[33] On September 22, the Vermont Democratic Party sent a letter to the DNC calling for more debates.[34]

Black Lives Matter debate

A week after the first debate was held in Las Vegas, the organization Black Lives Matter (not to be confused with [36]

Candidates invited to debate

Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, who announced his campaign on September 6, criticized the requirement that Democratic candidates must earn at least 1% in three major national polls in the six weeks before the debate. His criticism was centered on the fact that he was excluded from most polls because the Democratic National Committee (DNC) did not officially welcome him to the campaign as it had done for all five other candidates. In the two weeks following his announcement, Lessig was only included in one national poll, in which he met the 1% requirement; other national polls have included Vice President Biden, who had yet to announce whether he is running.[39][40] The day before the CNN debate, the Bloomberg Editorial Board published an editorial entitled, "Let All the Candidates Debate, Democrats," calling for the DNC to include Lessig in the debate, but this demand went unheeded.[41]

See also


  1. ^ Preston, Mark (May 5, 2015). "First on CNN: Clinton, Democratic presidential opponents to debate six times".  
  2. ^ Wasserman Schultz, Debbie (August 6, 2015). "Announcing the Democratic Debate Schedule". 
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Matt Guillermo (September 9, 2015). "Cnn Las Vegas to host Democratic president debate". CNN. 
  5. ^ a b c Preston, Mark (2015-09-28). "CNN debate criteria would allow Joe Biden to participate". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  6. ^ Parker, Ashley (September 16, 2015). "Anderson Cooper to Moderate First Democratic Debate". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ "Candidate Criteria for the October 13, 2015 CNN-Facebook Democratic Presidential Primary Debate" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  8. ^ Fabian, Jordan (2015-10-13). "Biden will watch Dem debate in DC".  
  9. ^ "A polished Clinton parries Sanders in Democratic debate". BBC News. October 14, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  10. ^ Niall Stanage (October 14, 2015). "Clinton scores big in first debate". The Hill. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Who won the first Democratic debate?". CNBC. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Who won CNN Democratic Debate: Clinton, Sanders' performances praised". IB Times. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Niall Stanage; Amie Parnes (October 14, 2015). "Dem debate winners and losers". The Hill. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  14. ^ Jesse Byrnes (October 14, 2015). "CNN debate sets ratings record for Democrats". The Hill. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  15. ^ Ben Kamisar (October 14, 2015). "Sanders: Americans ‘sick and tired’ of Clinton emails". The Hill. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Who won the Democratic debate on social media?". Time. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Trump picked up more followers during debate than all Democrats combined". Fox News. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  18. ^ "AP fact-check: Clinton revises history at Dem debate". ABC News. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  19. ^ "Fact-checking the first Democratic debate". USA Today. Retrieved October 14, 2015. 
  20. ^ "MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow to moderate 2016 Democratic forum at Winthrop". The State. October 7, 2015. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ Strauss, Daniel (November 2, 2015). "Lessig drops out of presidential race".  
  23. ^ "Miami Dade College To Host Democratic Presidential Debate". WLRN. 
  24. ^ "Election 2016: Bernie Sanders "not really" happy about DNC's debate schedule". CBS News. August 10, 2015. 
  25. ^ Eugene Scott (August 6, 2015). "Martin O'Malley criticizes Democratic Party over debates". CNN. 
  26. ^ Jacobs, Ben (2015-08-06). "'"Democratic primary debate schedule criticized as Clinton 'coronation.  
  27. ^ Dinan, Elizabeth (2015-08-28). "Fuller Clark challenges DNC chair for more presidential debates". Portsmouth, N.H. Retrieved 2015-09-23. 
  28. ^ "O’Malley blasts Wasserman Schultz in front of DNC meeting". Washington Times. 
  29. ^ "Two D.N.C. Officials Call for Adding More Debates". New York Times. 
  30. ^ "Does the Sanders surge pose a serious threat to Hillary? Howard Dean weighs in.". Washington Post. 
  31. ^ "Is the Democratic National Committee in the Tank for Hillary?". Daily Beast. 
  32. ^ "Pelosi joins calls to add more Democratic primary debates". CNN. 
  33. ^ "DNC chair heckled with calls for more debates". CNN. 
  34. ^ "Vermont Democrats Call For More Presidential Debates". WAMC Northeast Public Radio. 
  35. ^ "We Demand a Black Lives Matter Presidential Debate". Retrieved 2015-10-31. 
  36. ^ a b "FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: PRESS STATEMENT ON DNC RESPONSE - Black Lives Matter". Retrieved 2015-10-31. 
  37. ^ "Mobile Uploads - Black Lives Matter | Facebook". Retrieved 2015-10-31. 
  38. ^ Lowery, Wesley (2015-10-21). "DNC and RNC won’t add a debate, but give their blessings to Black Lives Matter presidential town hall". The Washington Post (in en-US).  
  39. ^ "Democratic candidate Lawrence Lessig decries 'catch-22' TV debate eligibility". The Guardian. 
  40. ^ "Democrat Debate Controversy: Will Lawrence Lessig Be Included?". Forbes. 
  41. ^ Bloomberg View Editorial Board (October 12, 2015). "Let All the Candidates Debate, Democrats". Bloomberg View. 

External links

  • Video of the October 13, 2015 debate in Las Vegas
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