Last month the Democratic National Committee announced the locations and times of the sanctioned Democratic Primary Debates. However, in an unprecedented move, the DNC will only allow six debates, a far cry from the 25 debates Democratic candidates participated in the 2008 election cycle.
That’s because this year the DNC has implemented an exclusivity clause, which would bar candidates from participating in sanctioned debates if they participated in unsanctioned debates. This would effectively ruin a candidate’s bid for President because the debates will only be held by the major news channels.
Lesser known candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley are rightfully outraged over the lack of debates. O’Malley later claimed that the schedule “seemed geared toward limiting debate and facilitating a coronation.” The six debates would be the lowest for any election year without an incumbent since 1980, according to an article by FiveThirtyEight.
The DNC simply does not see the importance of increased debates, even when the effects of debates are right in front of them. Carly Fiorina, who is a candidate for the Republican Presidential ticket, benefited greatly from participation in a Republican debate. Although it wasn’t the main event, pundits noticed her and proclaimed her the winner.
Since then, she has surged from the bottom seven candidates to the top five in some polls, reaching 10 percent support in the Public Policy poll, one point behind Jeb Bush. According to another poll by Real Clear Politics, she has almost doubled her support in a month.
Not only are primary debates important for the candidates to be heard, but for voters as well. In a 2013 study at the University of Missouri on voter preferences before and after primary debates, 35 percent of viewers changed their preference of candidate and 23 percent of viewers who were originally undecided supported a candidate after watching a primary debate, as compared to 86 percent of voters whose preferences didn’t change after a general election debate.
The effects primary debates have on elections are astounding. Not only can it boost a candidate from the bottom of the pack to the top, but it also can sway viewers’ preferences. Because of the immense power primary debates have on elections, there should be more scheduled debates in order for the public to make a clear decision on a candidate.