Bernie Sanders pushes for more debates
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersTrump attacks ‘Crazy Bernie’ Sanders over Medicare plans Overnight Defense: Trump says 'rogue killers' could be behind missing journalist | Sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | Saudis may claim Khashoggi killed by accident | Ex-VA chief talks White House 'chaos' | Most F-35s cleared for flight Overnight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports MORE (I-Vt.) is pushing for more debates in the Democratic presidential primary process, which would give him more chances to square off against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCarter Page files defamation lawsuit against DNC Dems fear party is headed to gutter from Avenatti’s sledgehammer approach Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE.

The DNC announced earlier this year it would hold six debates during the nominating process, with the first to be held in August or September.

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But Sanders is urging DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) to move the timeline up to earlier in the summer to make room for additional debates, arguing that it would boost Democratic participation heading into the general election.

“The large number of debates in the 2008 Presidential campaign is probably one of the reasons why that campaign was so successful in helping not only elect President Obama to an historic victory but for the Democrats to control the House of Representative and elect sixty members of our Democratic Caucus in the Senate,” Sanders wrote in a letter to Schultz.

“Those debates helped voters, beginning in the primary process, to understand more about the candidates and their positions on issues.”

Sanders is looking for any edge that might help him cut into Clinton’s huge lead.

Sanders is in second place in most national polls of Democrats and has emerged as a favorite among progressives who would like to see Clinton get challenged from the left. Still, he trails the former secretary of State by more than 50 percentage points, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls.

In his letter, Sanders proposed holding debates in red states where Democrats don’t traditionally compete. Right now, the DNC has said four of the six debates will take place in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. The locations of the other two debates haven’t been determined yet.

Sanders argued that holding a debate in Texas, Mississippi, Utah or Wyoming would remind voters in those states they “are not forgotten by the Democratic Party.”

“While a number of these non-target states have not in the past had much organized campaign presence, I believe it is critical for the Democratic Party and progressive forces in America to engage voters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia,” Sanders wrote. “By expanding the scope geographically of debates beyond the early calendar states we can begin to awaken activism at the grassroots level.”

In addition, Sanders reiterated his support for holding inter-party debates that put Republicans and Democrats on the stage together before either party has settled on a nominee.

“I believe that these inter-party debates would put in dramatic focus the shallow and at times ridiculous policies and proposals being advocated by the Republican candidates and by their party’s platform,” Sanders wrote.

Democrats have moved to make sure candidates only participate in DNC-sanctioned debates. Any candidate that participates in a debate from an outside group will be barred from future DNC events.