Nov. 1, 1991
Dec. 15, 1991 (Debates '92)
Jan. 19, 1992
Jan. 31, 1992 (Debates '92)
Feb. 16, 1992 (Debates '92)
Feb. 23, 1992
Feb. 29, 1992
Mar. 1, 1992
Mar. 5, 1992
Mar. 15, 1992
Mar. 27, 1992
Mar. 30, 1992
Mar. 31, 1992
Apr. 5, 1992
Apr. 6, 1992

Screen Grabs from C-SPAN. 
Click for C-SPAN video.

Primary Debates

The 1988 primaries saw a tremendous mish-mash of regional and single-issue debates and candidate forums.  All told, Democratic candidates participated in 46 such events during the primary season[1]; few were televised nationally.  Seeking to bring order to the process, Carl R. Wagner, a prominent Democrat, set up a nonprofit organization called Debates '92 to organize a series of nationally televised debates during the primaries.  Debates '92 attempted to put together seven debates -- one on each of the networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, C-SPAN and the fledgling Fox).

Reaction among the networks varied.  CNN was enthusiastic and NBC was very willing.  These two networks had been involved in nationally televised primary debates in 1987/88.  The others were a harder sell because they had no precedent.  There was some skepticism about whether voters were interested and there were concerns about production costs.  After time-consuming negotiations, four Debates '92-coordinated debates emerged, three of which were held before the New Hampshire primary.

Debates '92 director Wagner felt they had an indispensable impact.  "These debates were in a sense the first primary," he said.[2]  They allowed the candidates to step out from day-to-day campaigning and speak to a national audience.  They also allowed Bill Clinton to rise above the running controversies surrounding him and talk issues.

A more critical view of Debates '92 is offered by Larry Agran.  The longshot candidate stated, "The ostensibly independent 'Debates '92' was essentially a corporate creation of the DNC; they would decide what the chairman [of the DNC] wanted them to decide as to who's in and who's out of the nationally televised debates."[3]  The fact that a less conventional candidate was repeatedly denied access to a national audience raises questions, but at the same time, with dozens of candidates competing in New Hampshire, lines had to be drawn somewhere.

In addition to the Debates '92 debates, many other Democratic debates and forums were held.  The debates received varying exposure; many were broadcast nationally by C-SPAN.  Debates included:
Friday November 1, 1991 -- Manchester, NH.
Sponsored by the New Hampshire Democratic State Committee and WMUR-TV at WMUR-TV's Manchester studios in advance of the Democratic State Convention the next day.  Moderated by ABC News political director Hal Bruno.
[Tsongas, Clinton and Wilder].

Sunday December 15, 1991 -- Washington, DC.  [Debates '92]
90-minute debate hosted by NBC and moderated by Tom Brokaw.
[Brown, Clinton, Harkin, Kerrey, Tsongas and Wilder].

Sunday January 19, 1992 -- Manchester, NH.
Two-hour-debate sponsored by the New Hampshire Democratic State Committee at WMUR-TV's Manchester studios, moderated by ABC News correspondent Cokie Roberts.
[Brown, Clinton, Harkin, Kerrey and Tsongas].

Friday January 31, 1992 -- suburban VA near Washington, DC.  [Debates '92]
Two-hour debate hosted by PBS and moderated by Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer.
[Brown, Clinton, Harkin, Kerrey and Tsongas].

Sunday February 16, 1992 -- Goffstown, NH.  [Debates '92]
90-minute debate co-sponsored by CNN and the LWVEF at St. Anselm College and moderated by Bernard Shaw.
[Brown, Clinton, Harkin, Kerrey and Tsongas].

Sunday February 23, 1992 -- Sioux Falls, SD.
90-minute debate sponsored by South Dakota Public Television, and moderated by Ken Bode.  The forum was notable for its "midwestern focus," and included questions on the economy, agriculture and rural development, health care costs and access, the environment, and Native American affairs as well as closing statements.  It was one of few televised forums to include longshot candidate Larry Agran.
[Brown, Clinton, Harkin, Kerrey, Tsongas and Agran].

Saturday Feb. 29, 1992 -- Denver, CO.
90-minute debate sponsored by 9 KUSA-TV and Rocky Mountain News.  Moderated by 9 News anchorman Ed Sardella; three panels.
[Brown, Clinton, Harkin, Kerrey and Tsongas].

Sunday March 1, 1992 -- College Park, MD.
90-minute forum sponsored by the Maryland Democratic Party and University of Maryland School of Public Affairs and broadcast by Maryland Public Television. Moderated by Bob Beckel.
[Brown, Clinton, Harkin and Tsongas].

Thursday March 5, 1992 -- Dallas, TX.  [Debates '92]
90-minute "The Super Tuesday Debate" sponsored by ABC and moderated by Peter Jennings.
[Brown, Clinton, Harkin and Tsongas].

Sunday March 15, 1992 -- Chicago, IL.
Sponsored by WLS-TV, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Illinois Democratic Party.
[Brown Clinton and Tsongas].

only Brown and Clinton remaining...
Thursday March 27, 1992 -- St. Paul, MN.
"We the People Forum" sponsored by the St. Paul Pioneer-Press and Twin Cities Public Television and the Wisconsin State Journal and Wisconsin Public Television.  Brown in studio in St. Paul and Clinton via satellite from Indiana.  The event was preceded by town meetings.

Sunday March 30, 1992 -- New York, NY.
Hosted by WCBS-TV (special edition of Sunday Edition) and moderated by Jim Jensen with three questioners.  Clinton in studio and Brown via satellite from Green Bay, WI.
[Brown and Clinton].

Monday March 31, 1992 -- New York, NY.
"The Debate for Urban America" broadcast by Bronx Community Cable.

Sunday April 5, 1992 -- New York, NY.
Two days before the New York primary, a debate between Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown aired on WNBC-TV and was rebroadcast nationally on CNBC.

Monday April 6, 1992 -- New York, NY.
DONAHUE presented a "Clinton-Brown Debate."  He sought a "media-less" format, and other than providing a welcoming sentence at the beginning and a thank you at the end, he left all the talking to the two candidates.  It worked quite well.  The candidates were able to talk at length, without interruptions, and they devoted considerable time to health care.

There were no Republican debates.

1. Debates '92 press release, November 14, 1991.

2. Personal interview, March 15, 1993.

3. Quoted in Stephen C. Smith.  "Anyone Can Grow Up to be President! (And Other Myths of the American Presidential Election Process)."  New Political Science, Winter-Spring 1994 issue (No. 28-29), page 15.