L.A. Presidential Debate Axed

As has been rumored all day, CBS and the Democratic National Committee have dropped plans for a Dec. 10 debate of the Democratic presidential candidates in Los Angeles.

With some 500 newswriters and other employees threatening to strike, and the major hopefuls vowing not to cross picket lines, the network apparently decided that the uncertainty wasn’t worth it. The Writers Guild of America, East has been able to use the event as leverage, especially if it were to walk out on that date and disrupt the telecast. The membership already has voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, although none has been called.

CBS News regrets not being able to offer the Democratic presidential debate scheduled for Dec. 10 in Los Angeles. The possibility of picket lines set up by the Writers Guild of America and the unwillingness of many candidates to cross them made it necessary to allow the candidates to make other plans.

“Due to the uncertainty created by the ongoing labor dispute between CBS and the Writers Guild of America, the DNC has canceled the December 10th debate in Los Angeles. There are no plans to re-schedule,” said DNC Communications Director Karen Finney.

In a flurry of releases last week, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson each announced that they would not cross picket lines to attend.

Another casualty of the debate’s cancellation is California, as the debate had been scheduled when the state moved up its presidential primary to Feb. 5 as a way of gaining more influence in the nomination process. The hope was that the state would earn the attention of the presidential field in the same way that Iowa and New Hampshire are earning now.

But in the end California shares the Feb. 5 primary with 21 other states, muting its influence. Iowa and New Hampshire are perhaps more important than ever. And even though campaigns have been more aggressive about getting their candidates out to real campaign events in California, as opposed to fund-raisers, it is not as much as many had hoped.

Katie Couric was to have moderated the debate.

CNN and the Los Angeles Times have a debate scheduled in Los Angeles for Jan. 31, but the field will probably have narrowed considerably by then.

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