AMHERST, N.H. (AP) — Hillary Clinton's campaign is pushing Bernie Sanders to participate in a newly proposed Democratic debate — one not sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee — to be held just days before the New Hampshire primary.
But Sanders, who has surged ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire polls, has no plans to do so, his campaign said.
"The DNC has said this would be an unsanctioned debate so we would not want to jeopardize our ability to participate in future debates," Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver said.
Television network MSNBC and the Union Leader, New Hampshire's largest newspaper, announced the new debate on Tuesday, citing "overwhelming" calls from voters for another forum prior to the state's Feb. 9 primary. The proposal comes as Clinton and Sanders are locked in a tight race in first-to-vote Iowa and Clinton is trying to close the gap on Sanders in New Hampshire. Clinton's campaign had pushed for fewer debates earlier in the campaign, but now says she will participate in the forum if her competitors do.
"Hillary Clinton would be happy to participate in a debate in New Hampshire if the other candidates agree, which would allow the DNC to sanction the debate," Clinton spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's campaign said he plans to attend.
The DNC has sanctioned six debates and said in a statement Tuesday night it plans to "reconvene" with the candidates after voting in Iowa and New Hampshire to talk about further debates.
Weaver said Sanders hopes there will be at least 3 or 4 more debates following the two remaining scheduled debates planned in Wisconsin and Florida. He said the process required a "rational, thought-out schedule of debates, not just ad hoc debates scheduled when a network decides they want to have one."
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, contributed to this report.