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DNC chair defends debate schedule

Story highlights

  • DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz defended the party's six-debate calendar
  • Narrow debate schedule left candidates extra time to campaign in early-voting states

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN)Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she doesn't regret limiting the party's debate schedule to six events -- including only four before the first votes are cast in Iowa and New Hampshire.

In an interview with CNN's Brianna Keilar, the Florida congresswoman said the party's debate calendar "has resulted in record viewership" -- and that it's unfair to compare Democratic debate ratings to the GOP's because of the presence of Donald Trump in the Republican field.
    "We have actually bested every single Republican debate from 2008 and 2012 -- you know, in the pre-Trump era. They've got a reality TV show going on the other side of the aisle, and we have a substantive and robust discussion about how to build on the progress that we've made," Wasserman Schultz said.
    Her interview Monday afternoon came hours before CNN hosts a live town hall at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa -- a final opportunity for voters to hear from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley in a nationally televised event before the Iowa caucuses on February 1.
    Wasserman Schultz said the debate calendar left the candidates time to compete in the first states to vote -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
    "We made sure with a smaller debate schedule -- again, with only originally five candidates and now three -- it gives the candidates an opportunity to stay on the campaign trail for those early-state primary voters and caucus voters to get a really close look at them, and that's what the purpose of the early-state window is for," she said.