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Democrats will hold six primary debates as they seek to choose their 2016 presidential nominee, the Democratic National Committee announced Tuesday.
The debates will bring Democratic front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden nominates Meg Whitman as ambassador to Kenya Hillary Clinton shares part of her 2016 victory speech for the first time Ben Affleck: Republicans 'want to dodge the consequences for their actions' through gerrymandering MORE face to face with a number of lesser-known candidates hoping to defeat her — or at least to affect the campaign.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBriahna Joy Gray discusses US's handling of COVID-19 testing Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Overnight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill MORE (I-Vt.) is the only major candidate officially challenging Clinton so far, but former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former GOP Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.) and former Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) have said they are considering running for the Democratic nomination.
Clinton is far ahead in polls. In the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Clinton has 62.7 percent compared to 12.7 percent for Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley — Presented by Connected Commerce Council — Incident reporting language left out of package Exporting gas means higher monthly energy bills for American families Senators turn up the heat on Amazon, data brokers during hearing MORE (D-Mass.), who insists she will not be a candidate. Sanders gets 5.6 percent.
Vice President Biden has also not ruled out a run, but he holds only 9.8 percent support in recent polling.
Still, Democrats said the debate schedule will ensure they have a competitive contest for their party’s nomination.
“We’ve always believed that we would have a competitive primary process, and that debates would be an important part of that process,” said Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) in a statement.
“Our debate schedule will not only give Democratic voters multiple opportunities to size up the candidates for the nomination side-by-side, but will give all Americans a chance to see a unified Democratic vision of economic opportunity and progress – no matter whom our nominee may be,” she added.
Four of the debates will take place in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — all states with early nominating contests. The sites of the other two debates have not yet been decided.
Democrats who participate in debates not sanctioned by the DNC will reportedly not be allowed to participate in later DNC events.
Republicans, who have a much wider field of possible candidates, will have at least nine debates.
- Updated at 8:02 p.m.