While the Republican presidential candidates are just hours from taking the stage at their first debate, Democrats have just rolled out a schedule for their own six debates -- but not everybody is happy about it.
Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley's campaign called the schedule "ridiculous," asserting that Democrats are hosting a small number of debates in order to help Hillary Clinton maintain her frontrunner status.
"The DNC just released their debate schedule, and it is one of the slimmest that I have ever seen," says strategist Bill Hyers, whose candidate is polling in the low single digits, more than 50 points behind frontrunner Hillary Clinton. "What they’re proposing does not give you, the voters, ample opportunity to hear from the Democratic candidates for President."
"If anything, it seems geared toward limiting debate and facilitating a coronation, not promoting a robust debate and primary process," he said.
Democrats are slated to host four of their six debates before the Iowa caucuses in January, according to a statement released late Thursday morning. The first Democratic presidential debate is scheduled roughly two months from now. ABC News will co-host one of the debates in Manchester, New Hampshire on December 19. Four of the six debates will take place before the Iowa caucuses in January.
Here is the full list of Democratic debates:
1. October 13 – CNN – Nevada, TBD
2. November 14 – CBS/KCCI/Des Moines Register – Des Moines, Iowa
3. December 19 – ABC/WMUR – Manchester, New Hampshire
4. January 17 – NBC/Congressional Black Caucus Institute – Charleston, South Carolina
5. February or March, TBD – Univision/Washington Post – Miami
6. February or March, TBD – PBS – Wisconsin, TBD
Vermont's independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who is polling in the high teens nationally, has also asked for more debates, even rolling out an online petition requesting debates earlier in the race for the nomination. In a statement today, Sanders said he was "disappointed, but not surprised" by the debate schedule.
"At a time when many Americans are demoralized about politics and have given up on the political process, I think it's imperative that we have as many debates as possible -- certainly more than six. I look forward to working with the DNC to see if we can significantly expand the proposed debate schedule," he continued.
But Democratic Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz disagreed.
"These six debates will ... give caucus goers and primary voters ample opportunity to hear from our candidates about their vision for our country’s future," she said in a statement.
Hillary Clinton campaign strategist Joel Benenson told reporters during a call yesterday that Clinton is looking forward to debating. "She prides herself on doing very well in debates," he said.
The Democrats held roughly 25 presidential debates in the 2008 election cycle - four times as many as they will hold this year. And they are hosting about half of the 11 debates that the Republicans currently plan to hold throughout the primary process.
While Republicans are hosting their first debate in the important general election swing state of Ohio, the Democrats are headed to the early primary states. Their first four debates will be in Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
ABC News' MaryAlice Parks contributed to this report.