Before Democratic presidential candidates can face each other at the next presidential debate, they'll have to face Rachel Maddow. The MSNBC journalist is set to host an event on Friday at Winthrop University in South Carolina. What is the Democratic debate forum with Rachel Maddow? Billed as the "First in the South Democratic Candidates Forum," the event an extended live interview with each individual candidate. It's a means to get a better picture of who's running, and what their views are.
To be clear, this is not a debate at all. The DNC has only sanctioned six Democratic debates, and this isn't one of them. Thus, rules stipulate that the candidates cannot engage each other during this "forum." All three remaining Democratic hopefuls will sit down with Maddow to discuss important issues that affect the entire country — as well as region-specific topics, including what it means to be a Democrat in the South. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley will all have individual interviews with Maddow starting at 8 p.m. EST Friday. South Carolina DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison praised the opportunity presented by such a unique event:
This forum will allow candidates to share their visions for our country, speak to Southern-specific issues and concerns, and show that Democrats are focused on giving working and middle-class families an opportunity to succeed.
Indeed, the access needed for candidates to fully articulate their views has been on the minds of the media and the public since a disastrous CNBC debate led the Republican National Committee to pull out of a NBC-hosted February debate. Maddow touched upon complaints from candidate — particularly what's going on with the GOP — during an interview on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon after the late night host referenced her participation in the forum:
They [candidates] like complaining about the process. I think they have a legitimate beef with the debates feeling a little nutty. You know, they've got these separate kid's table debates where the candidates who don't quite make it have to do it in a separate area like they're in detention or something. It's all very insensitive.
The Democratic presidential field is far less crowded, with both Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee dropping out following the first debate. Given the fact that the left has far fewer debates compared to the Republicans, it only makes sense that the Democrats would seek additional options for candidates to speak to the American people.