Clinton commits to more debates, avoids specifics

Story highlights

  • Hillary Clinton said Thursday she would debate Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire next week
  • But she didn't specifically say whether she would agree to the three more debates that the Vermont senator is seeking

(CNN)Hillary Clinton said Thursday she would debate Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire next week -- but didn't specifically say whether she would agree to the three more debates that the Vermont senator is seeking.

"We have another one shortly after New Hampshire on the calendar, and I've said we should start looking for dates to get one scheduled. I'm perfectly fine with that," Clinton told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room." "But first things first: We have to agree that we're going to debate in New Hampshire. Both (former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley) and I have agreed and we're waiting for the senator to decide to join us."
Earlier Thursday, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said the campaign was "glad that Senator Sanders has changed his mind about a debate next week in New Hampshire."
    "We have always been willing to add additional debates beyond the six that had been scheduled and look forward to starting discussions on scheduling debates in April and May," Fallon added.
    The comments are the latest in an ongoing back-and-forth between the Sanders and Clinton campaigns over a proposal that would add a previously unscheduled debate ahead of New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary on February 9.
    The Clinton campaign is aiming to put Sanders in a corner: Already leading in New Hampshire, the Vermont senator has little to gain from another face-to-face contest with Clinton. On the other hand, Sanders risks looking weak if he refuses.
    Instead, Sanders upped the ante: He offered earlier Thursday to do the New Hampshire debate on the condition that Clinton would agree to three additional debates in March, April and May.
    "From the beginning of this campaign Sen. Sanders has called for more debates. Secretary Clinton has not. Now she is asking to change the rules to schedule a debate next week that is not sanctioned by the DNC. Why is that?" Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement.
    "The answer is obvious. The dynamics of the race have changed and Sen. Sanders has significant momentum. Sen. Sanders is happy to have more debates but we are not going to schedule them on an ad hoc basis at the whim of the Clinton campaign. If Secretary Clinton wants more debates that's great. We propose three additional debates. One in March, April and May and none on a Friday, Saturday or holiday weekend. And all of the three Democratic candidates must be invited. If the Clinton campaign will commit to this schedule, we would ask the DNC to arrange a debate in New Hampshire on Feb. 4."