In a misguided attempt to protect Hillary Clinton's coronation as the Democratic nominee, the Democratic National Committee is doing its best to insure that as few people as possible watch the Democrat's own Presidential debates, even as tens of millions tune in to the Republican debates.
In doing so, the DNC and the Clinton campaign are demobilizing its own base, telegraphing that they don't think Hillary can stand up to sustained scrutiny, and increasing the likelihood that an energized Republican Party will take back the White House.
First the DNC limited debates to 6, compared to 26 in the 2008 campaign that nominated Barack Obama, and 12 Republican debates this campaign season. Next, it passed a rule that any candidate who showed up for a debate that the DNC didn't sanction would be banned from appearing in any officially-sanctioned Democratic debate. (That's the why the candidates couldn't address each other on Rachel Maddow's candidate forum, which, lacking the drama of a direct confrontation, was viewed by only 2.3 million people and only 417,000 in the key 25-54 year old demographic. Compare that to the 13-24 million people who've watched the various Republican debates.) In all, over 60 million people have watched Republican debates and only 15 million have watched Democratic debates.
Now the DNC has scheduled the Iowa debate for this Saturday night, the night of the week the least people are home watching TV, especially among younger 18-35 year old voters who are a key constituency for Democrats to mobilize if they want to win. WTF?
There's no rational explanation except that the DNC wants as few people as possible to tune in to the Democratic debates, despite the fact that Presidential debates are one the best ways to get a party's message out to large numbers of voters at once. But in seeking the Democratic nomination, Hillary has the clear advantage of being the best known of the candidates. Anything that allows Democratic primary voters to get to know Bernie Sanders (or Martin O'Malley) better makes it more likely that more voters will decide they like them, and maybe even prefer them to Hillary. It's amply clear that the DNC and the Clinton campaign have decided to avoid this at all costs, even if it means harming the Democrats' chance in the general election.
It's a loser's strategy. It goes along with the Democrats' abandonment of the 50-state strategy initiated by Howard Dean, which abandonment is one of the causes of Republicans taking control of so many state offices. If Republicans take control of the White House in 2016, the Democratic National Committee will be partly to blame.