Presidential candidate Martin O'Malley took a swipe at the Democratic Party and frontrunner Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, arguing that party "insiders" were trying to "circle the wagons" around the former secretary of state by sanctioning only six debates.
"Those in Washington who think they can limit the number of debates that we're going to have before the Iowa caucuses -- can circle the wagons and close off debates -- I think they're gonna have another thing coming when they talk to the people of Iowa," the former Maryland governor said at a campaign stop in Cedar Rapids.
His criticism was even sharper in an interview with The Hill on Wednesday in which he described "insider" attempts to limit the number of debates as a "grave mistake" and "undemocratic." Asked whether "party insiders" included the Clinton family, O'Malley said: "Of course they are. President and Secretary Clinton are the most colossal, prolific fundraising couple in the history of representative democracies."
The Democratic National Committee said in May that it expected to sanction six debates, including one each in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- far fewer than in 2008.
O'Malley, who is lagging in polls behind Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, did not say how many debates he feels would be appropriate.
A spokeswoman for the Democratic Party said six debates will give voters plenty of opportunity to see the candidates side by side.
"We're thrilled to hear that Governor O'Malley is eager to participate in our debates," the spokeswoman, Holly Shulman, said in a statement. "I'm sure there will be lots of other forums for the candidates to make their case to voters, and that they will make the most out of every opportunity."