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Friday, January 12, 2007
CNN/WMUR/Union Leader to host first presidential debates
DNC Chairman Howard Dean expresses support for debates

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- New Hampshire's two leading news organizations will partner with CNN to host two presidential debates in April, executives with the three media companies announced Friday.

CNN, WMUR and The New Hampshire Union Leader will hold the back-to-back debates on April 4 and 5, the first such events to be held of the 2008 presidential campaign. CNN's Wolf Blitzer will moderate the debates with questions coming from WMUR's Scott Spradling and Union Leader's John DiStaso. WMUR's Jennifer Vaughn will be moderating questions from the audience. The debate will be televised live nationally on CNN and throughout New Hampshire on WMUR.

"We are thrilled to provide our viewers with the information to make the most informed decision possible when they are voting in their presidential primaries or caucusing," said CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said in an interview Friday that he thinks the April 2007 New Hampshire debate is "important" and noted he hopes to attend the event.

"I think you'll see people doing it, too," Dean said in an interview on CNN. "We went through about 27 of them four years ago and the reason is if four or five people say yes, then you really have to not miss the opportunity to go and speak your peace or people are going to wonder why."

New Hampshire, a crucial proving ground for 2008 candidates, will be the first state to cast votes in the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries. Republican and Democratic candidates have been visiting the Granite State since the conclusion of the 2004 presidential election in an effort to woo these influential voters in 2008.

"We think it only makes sense that the state with the first-in-the-nation primary also has the first-in-the-nation presidential debate," said Jeff Bartlett, WMUR general manager. "Many candidates and potential candidates have already made numerous trips to New Hampshire, and we felt that April would be a good time for the voters here to get their first impression about how the candidates stack up against one another."

Joseph W. McQuaid, president and publisher of the Union Leader, said, "The issues facing the next administration are as crucial as they have ever been for this country. It is not too early for the first primary state to present a forum to explore the views and the competence of serious candidates."

-- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston
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