The format for the next Democratic debate on March 15th in Arizona is reportedly going to be quite different from all the previous ones. If Politico has the story correct, CNN and the DNC are looking at doing away with the lecterns and most of the questions from a designated moderator and having Biden and Sanders sit in some comfortable chairs and take questions from the audience. Huh? Surely they realize that this is going to raise even more questions about the health of at least one, if not both of the candidates.
Bernie Sanders wants to stand up at the next debate — and his campaign is accusing Joe Biden of wanting to sit down.
During a private call Friday with CNN, which is moderating the March 15 debate with the Democratic National Committee, Sanders’ team balked at a new proposed format for debate, saying it gives his opponent Biden too much of a break in their first one-on-one face-off. Biden’s camp denied that it was pressing for a sit-down debate.
The format for the next debate in Arizona — their first since Biden’s blowout Super Tuesday victories — would have the candidates seated for the first time this election cycle and take multiple questions from the audience.
Sanders’ campaign manager was quick to accuse Joe Biden’s team of wanting to have them sit. But Biden’s campaign is claiming that the decision was being made by the DNC and CNN. For their part, CNN is refusing to comment and referring questions back to the DNC. So this is quickly turning into a he said, he said, they said situation.
It seems rather obvious why Bernie is the one driving the conversation over this. He knows that he needs to show that he’s still physically strong enough to hold up under the wear and tear of the campaign after his heart attack. But what benefit accrues to Joe Biden if they let him sit in a chair and field (screened) audience questions? We haven’t seen much to indicate that Joe’s physical endurance is in question. They should be more worried about him suddenly losing the thread in the middle of the show and begin talking about that time he flew a biplane into a secret underground base in Antarctica or something.
No matter how this winds up being resolved, the fact that a question as simple as whether the candidates sit or stand is generating headlines today speaks volumes. The Democrats are desperate to beat Donald Trump in November, but they’ve managed to narrow their race down to two candidates who both have serious health questions hanging over their heads. It’s already been pointed out that each man is in the category most susceptible to the coronavirus. In fact, their scheduled forum in Orlando was already canceled over concerns regarding the disease.
On top of that, there’s the aforementioned “cardiac event” that Sanders was taken down by over the winter. And Biden will continue to face questions as to whether or not he’s still in possession of all of his marbles or if his many “senior moments” are a sign of something more ominous. These aren’t just questions of whether or not either of them can last a full four years enduring the rigors of the office. One of them is going to have to face off against Donald Trump on the debate stage multiple times. Having the candidate either begin clutching at their chest or start staring blankly into the cameras when they clearly can’t remember the question they were just asked is not a good look for the audience watching at home.
The DNC might want to start working on some damage control here. If putting the two candidates in chairs is going to raise more questions than they will be expected to answer, perhaps they should just stick with the standard debate format and hope for the best.