The original schedule released by the Democratic National Committee back in early 2019 included the possibility of up to twelve debates. Well, we’ve had eleven of them, and the possibility of a twelfth debate amid the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic, and with Joe Biden mounting a significant delegate lead already, seems to be unpalatable to almost everyone.
If you ask Sen. Bernie Sanders, however, he says he’s ready for the next debate to be scheduled for sometime in April. The DNC has demurred on the request, and Biden says he thinks Democrats have “had enough debates.”
As CNN reports, Biden cited the current health crisis and the fact that Democrats need to coalesce around a presumptive nominee sooner rather than later:
“My focus is just dealing with this crisis right now. I haven’t thought about any more debates. I think we’ve had enough debates. I think we should get on with this,” Biden said when asked by CNN whether he would debate Sanders again.
NEW: “My focus is just dealing with this crisis right now. I haven’t thought about any more debates,. I think we’ve had enough debates. I think we should get on with this,” Joe Biden says when asked if there should be more Democratic debates. https://t.co/cZA4ORLjNb pic.twitter.com/4fryw6GhTf
— ABC News (@ABC) March 25, 2020
Sanders, on the other hand, says he’s ready to go and looking forward to another debate being added to the schedule:
The former vice president’s comment, during a press conference with reporters video-streamed from Biden’s home in Delaware, comes the day after a Sanders aide said the senator would participate in an April debate.
“If there is a debate in April, he plans to be there,” Sanders communications director Mike Casca said Tuesday.
Sanders said in an interview on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” on Wednesday that he disagrees with Biden.
“I think we need a good debate as to where we go, not only just now but in the future,” Sanders told Cooper. “And to my mind, if there’s anything that this unexpected moment in American history should teach us, we’ve got to rethink the basic structures of American society, and that is guaranteed health care to all as a human right, creating an economy that provides for all people not just the wealthy.”
The most recent engagement, held on March 15, seemed to go as well as could be expected for Biden. He was generally solid and didn’t cause any unforced errors as he has in prior debates. Sanders sang from his playbook like a well-oiled machine. It’s hard to imagine a situation where another Sanders-Biden debate yields much more information for Democratic voters, especially given Biden’s significant delegate lead.
Reports out on Wednesday indicated that Sanders appears to have no intention of exiting the race any time soon, even as some states decide to postpone their primaries and all public campaign events have been canceled. It’s arguable that another debate, in a tightly-controlled and socially-distanced environment, could be perhaps the most direct way for Democrats to broadcast a widely-viewed message during this time of national crisis.
It has also been suggested that if Sanders and Biden coordinated their message, they could use a nationally televised debate to spend time attacking President Trump and refrain from attacking each other. That, however, is not something that would come naturally to Sanders who seems bent on pulling the Democratic Party closer to his brand of democratic socialism using all necessary means.
At this point, the ball is really in Biden’s court. With only two major candidates remaining, a debate isn’t a debate unless both candidates show up. Even in the unlikely event that the DNC acquiesces to Sanders’ request, and schedules a debate, it’s unlikely that Biden would choose to participate. He could cite several reasons, not the least of which would be a need to remain in quarantine and avoid any possible Covid-19 exposure given his age. The media would cheer his response, and Sanders’ debate request would get lost in the daily grind of Coronvairus news.
Besides, the DNC is busy looking at the national convention scheduled for July in Milwaukee and starting to get nervous about the Coronavirus outbreak causing great upheaval to an event planned years in advance. The idea of dealing with another debate in April seems to be low on the priority list.