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Finally Clinton And Sanders Find A Time And Place To Debate

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have debated eight times, but with the big New York primary looming, they struggled to agree on when and where the next matchup would be.
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Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have debated eight times, but with the big New York primary looming, they struggled to agree on when and where the next matchup would be.

Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have agreed to hold another debate in advance of the New York primary. The candidates have committed to face each other on CNN at 9 p.m. on April 14 in New York, the network says.

The very important New York primary takes place on April 19.

Each of their campaigns had a hard time coming up with a date and venue the other side would accept, and each insisted it was the other side that was holding things up.

In the end, they went with a date proposed by the Clinton campaign, which conflicts with a rally that Sanders had planned.

"We hope the debate will be worth the inconvenience for thousands of New Yorkers who were planning to attend our rally on Thursday, but will have to change their schedules to accommodate Secretary Clinton's jam-packed, high-dollar, coast-to-coast schedule of fundraisers all over the country," said Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs in a statement.

Monday morning the Sanders campaign emailed a press release with the headline "Sanders Looks Forward to New York Debate."

It went on to say that "Sen. Sanders has accepted an invitation from NBC News for a Sunday night prime-time debate on April 10. We hope the Clinton campaign also accepts."

Compare and contrast that with the email from the Clinton camp over the weekend. In that one, her press secretary Brian Fallon said, "Over the course of the last week, we have offered three specific dates for a debate in New York, all of which the Sanders campaign rejected. We offered Monday, April 4 at 7:30 p.m."

Sanders rejected it because he had a big rally in Milwaukee on Monday night in advance of Tuesday's Wisconsin primary. There was also a certain NCAA March Madness championship men's college basketball game on television Monday evening that a televised debate would have competed with.

The Sanders campaign needs to stop with the games.

So you say there's a conflict? No problem, said the Clinton campaign, which said how about April 14? Or April 15 (proposed on Good Morning America)?

But the Sanders campaign said "no go" on those dates, and countered April 11, 12 or 13.

Notice that seven different dates over the next two weeks were on the table, but there was no agreement between the campaigns.

You following all of this?

Then there were these dueling quotes from Sanders and Clinton campaigns:

The Clinton campaign should stop playing games.

"The Clinton campaign should stop playing games," Sanders spokesman Briggs said in that press release.

"The Sanders campaign needs to stop with the games," Clinton spokesman Fallon wrote.

There have been eight debates already featuring Clinton and Sanders, including four early on that also included now ex-candidate Martin O'Malley. (And don't forget the October event in Las Vegas where former Sens. Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee joined in as well.)

The latest battle over logistics was a measure of how much the Democratic race has changed over the past six months. Early on the Clinton campaign called the shots. The debates often took place on weekends when audience would be low, and they reflected the relative lack of drama in a race that was seen as Clinton's to lose and that caution was the order of the day. She is still the front-runner, with a sizable lead in delegates, but Clinton no longer takes Sanders (and his supporters) lightly.

Along the way, the Democratic debates became must-see-TV for more than just political junkies. The ratings don't rival the Trump-driven reality show that GOP debates have been this year. Nonetheless, Democratic voters are tuning in.

That raised the stakes.

And created what has become a debate debate for the Democrats.

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You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.