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If a presidential debate is held and nobody watches, does it really happen? DNC hiding Hillarly with debates on weekend before Christmas...

If a presidential debate is held and nobody watches, does it really happen? DNC hiding Hillarly with debates on weekend before Christmas...

by Alan Rappeport, New York Times

If a presidential debate is held and nobody watches, does it really happen?

While viewers are expected to watch the third Democratic debate on Saturday night, they are unlikely to be doing so in the droves that tuned into the Republican debates or the Democratic face-off that was held on a weeknight. While some of that interest on the Republican side can be attributed to the Donald J. Trump effect, critics of the Democratic National Committee’s scheduling process are also upset that the party is muting its message by holding debates when people are less likely to tune in.

There was much discussion over the number of Democratic debates that would be held in this cycle, with Martin O’Malley and Senator Bernie Sanders pushing for more opportunities to face off publicly with Hillary Clinton. They ultimately settled on six, of which two were scheduled for Saturday evenings and one for a Sunday.

As in the previous Democratic debate, which was held at the same time as an important college football game, the candidates will clash on Saturday night with the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys.

Mr. O’Malley, who has been the most vocal about the timing of the debates, complained about the issue in August.

“They’ve scheduled it during shopping season, December 19th,” Mr. O’Malley said. “I don’t know why that is. I think it’s out of a false sense that they have to circle the wagons around the inevitable front-runner.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. O’Malley’s campaign said that avoiding prime-time debate slots was a way for the Democratic Party to “protect” Mrs. Clinton, and that it had given Mr. Trump and the Republicans a better platform to express their views.

Mr. Sanders’s campaign said that he did not have any input about when the debates would take place and that he was hoping for more opportunities to discuss the issues with his rivals for the nomination.

“We’re playing the hand we were dealt,” said Michael Briggs, a spokesman for Mr. Sanders. “I guess Christmas Eve was booked.”

The Clinton campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

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