DNC changes format for next debate; Sanders team says move was made to help Biden

Screenshot CBS News

The next Democratic debate is set to take place Sunday in Phoenix, Ariz., and with questions already swirling about the mental well-being of former Vice President Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders’ campaign is out to capitalize on those concerns by adding a physical component.

The irony is that at the age of 78, Sanders is one year older than Biden.

The debate is being hosted by CNN and the Sanders campaign is taking exception to what it says was a format change negotiated by the Democratic National Committee to allow the candidates to be seated for the first time this election cycle, Politico reported. A move the campaign sees as being done to the benefit of Biden.

Because of an earlier rule change by the DNC that excludes Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, the 11th Democratic debate will be the first one on one debate between Biden and Sanders, and Sanders campaign is saying the format change gives Biden too much of a break in the one-on-one face-off.

“Why does Joe Biden not want to stand toe-to-toe with Sen. Sanders on the debate stage Mar. 15 and have an opportunity to defend his record and articulate his vision for the future?” asked Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ senior advisor.

In addition to being seated, the candidates will reportedly take a number of questions from the audience.

Biden’s deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield dismissed the concerns raised by the rival campaign, taking a shot at Sanders in the process.

“We will participate in whatever debate CNN chooses to stage: standing, sitting, at podiums, or in a town hall,” Bedingfield told Politico. “The problem for the Sanders campaign is not the staging of the debate, but rather, the weakness of Sen. Sanders’ record and ideas.”

For what it’s worth, the DNC said the format for the debate was decided by the party and CNN, according to the political news outlet. CNN declined to comment, referring questions to the DNC.

Politico senior campaigns and elections editor Steven Shepard did a little research on the matter.

I went back and checked: In 2008, in the final four debates featuring just two candidates (Clinton and Obama), they were seated in three out of the four meetings,” he tweeted.

Sanders had a heart attack in October and had two stents inserted. The self-described socialist assured voters that he’d release “comprehensive” medical records, but has yet to fulfill the promise.

And he doesn’t appear to have any intention of doing so.

“I think we have released a detailed medical report, and I’m comfortable on what we have done,” Sanders said during a CNN town hall last month.

With the campaign drawing questions about Biden’s physical stamina, they may have opened the door for Biden to push the issue.

The rigors of a long campaign season has Biden flubbing his own name and coming across confused, as he struggles at times to maintain his train of thought, making one gaffe after another and even slurring his words. So he may welcome a change of focus to his physical well-being.

Perhaps, Biden will even ask for a push up contest.

Either way, social media is enjoying the two cantankerous septuagenarians flailing about — here’s a quick sampling of responses from Twitter:


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