How To Watch The Democratic Town Hall That Will Show Candidates' Personalities In A Way Debates Can't
Just one week before the much-anticipated Iowa caucuses, CNN is hosting a town hall with the Democratic candidates in Iowa on Monday. This will provide Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former Gov. Martin O'Malley with one more opportunity to pitch themselves to Iowa voters who may still be undecided, and it will give voters across the nation a chance to learn more about the Democratic candidates. The event will be held from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET. You can either watch on CNN or livestream the town hall on CNNGo.
Town halls are formatted differently than debates. In a typical debate, candidates only have between 30 and 90 seconds to speak at a time before the focus shifts to another candidate. In contrast, the town hall allows each candidate to sit down for half an hour with the moderator, who this time will be CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. The candidates will field questions both from Cuomo and from Iowa voters in attendance.
The extended time with each candidate along with the in-person interactions with voters show us a different side of the candidates than we see in the fast-paced, back-and-forth, attack-and-defend debate format. The town hall will be held at Iowa's Drake University, which served as the home of the Democratic debate on Nov. 14, and the Iowa Brown and Black Forum, which put racial justice issues in the spotlight, on Jan. 11.
Monday's town hall was scheduled somewhat last-minute by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), with the event being announced less than a week ahead of time. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has come under fire recently for only scheduling six Democratic debates, two of which will take place after the first crucial primaries have passed and half of which were set on weekends. Viewership for the two debates that have taken place on weekends was lower than for the debates that were scheduled on weekdays; between 8 and 8.5 million tuned in for the weekend debates, compared to between 10 and 16 million for those held on weekdays. Wasserman Schultz has argued that the debate schedule was partly the responsibility of the networks hosting them, and that the small number of debates allows candidates to spend more time meeting and speaking with voters on the campaign trail.
Having one more opportunity to see the candidates on stage could make a difference in what has become in recent weeks a very tight race in Iowa between Clinton and Sanders. Aside from two outlier polls that show Clinton with massive leads on Sanders, there are eight polls from January that suggest Iowa could go to Sanders or Clinton.