On Saturday, Dec. 19, the third Democratic presidential debate will air on ABC, and there are a few things you should know as background information before you flip the channel. The channel, which is broadcasted over public airwaves and accessible without cable, will also be streaming the debate live online. And this showdown will look identical to the last, featuring only three candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley.
According to Real Clear Politics, which calculates an average based on national polls, Clinton is leading by 22.4 points with a little over 54 percent of Democrats supporting her. Sanders comes in second place currently at 32.2 percent, and Martin O'Malley is going to have to show the U.S. what he's got during this next debate if he wants to hang on for a chance to be in the primary election. According to the polling data, O'Malley will take the stage with less than 3 percent support.
The debate will be hosted in the all-important voting state of New Hampshire. More specifically, it will take place at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, which has quite a reputation when it comes to national debates. Saint Anselm is a small Catholic, Benedictine liberal arts college that enrolls just around 2,000 students per year, and this December debate won't be its first time serving as a national political theater. Aside from hosting more than a few national presidential debates, it has seen speeches from presidents including Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon.
In terms of scheduling, the National Democratic Committee has made some peculiar decisions that aren't conducive to a large viewing audience. Again, they have scheduled the debate to take place on Saturday — not on a weekday. It will be sponsored by ABC News, the New Hampshire Democratic Party, and the New Hampshire Union-Leader. According to Vox, there have been 100 debates since 2000 and only seven of them have happened on a Saturday. Brendan Bordelon of National Review has written that top Democrats in the committee have accused Wasserman Schultz of favoring Clinton by booking debates on weekends; in the article, Democratic strategist Bob Shrum explained the reasoning.
Do I think that the DNC almost certainly knew that the Iowa game was scheduled for 8 p.m., and now the debate is scheduled for [the same time]? Yes. If you want to diminish the audience for the debate, and if you want to protect the front-runner, you would do that.
There are also an equal number of narratives that go against this theory. One, according to National Review, is that Clinton supporters want to see her on stage more and that she needs that extra time to instill her points. The theory, regardless of its validity, is interesting fodder, it will be even more intriguing to see whether Sanders or O'Malley pulls ahead in the polls after the upcoming face-off.