Why Aren't There Two Democratic Debates?

For the first time this election cycle, the Democratic presidential candidates will debate one another on everything from the economy to social issues in Las Vegas Tuesday night. The democratic debate will be a chance for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb to explain to voters exactly where they stand on each issue, and the other four candidates will no doubt lob continuous attacks at Clinton, who's still the front-runner. Since the first two Republican debates set the stage for the 2016 primary debate season, many people are wondering if the Democratic match will be similar, and specifically if there will be two Democratic debates like there were with the Republican events.

Tuesday's debate will not be split into two separate forums and the reason is quite simple — there are way more Republican candidates than there are Democratic contenders running for president. There are 15 Republicans chasing after the White House now that Scott Walker and Rick Perry have dropped out, compared to six Democrats, which made it difficult to have a single GOP debate. Even with all the Democrats on stage, Tuesday's debate would be smaller than the main Republican debates, which included 10 and then 11 candidates.

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CNN's criteria for participating in Tuesday's debate is the same as for the last Republican debate the news network hosted — candidates must have an average of at least one percent of support among three national polls. For the Sept. 16 GOP debate, CNN used this criteria to determine which candidates could enter the prime-time debate and which ones had to appear in an earlier forum, but because there's only one debate for the Democrats, those who weren't invited are simply left out.

The only candidate who didn't have at least one percent of support was Lawrence Lessig, who wasn't even included in the polls. Lessig, a Harvard law professor, still hopes to be invited to participate, telling The New York Times: "I'm surprised by the lack of recognition from the Democratic Party. It's unclear how if you're not a politician or a billionaire you get to a place where you are able to participate."

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If Vice President Joe Biden were to enter the presidential race before Tuesday, he would be invited to the debate since he already has more than one percent of support in the polls. However, that's not likely considering he pushed back his window for deciding whether or not to run once again, and is now expected to announce (or not) by mid-October. So, the debate Tuesday night will probably only include five candidates, which will allow more time for each politician to thoroughly answer questions and argue with one another.