CONCORD, N.H. — Less than two weeks before New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary, nearly every Democratic senator in the Granite State is searching for an answer to one question: Why won't the leaders of their party listen?
"Many of us have really struggled to understand why the Democratic National Committee limited the number of debates, put the only debate in New Hampshire the weekend before Christmas and then refused to schedule a debate leading up to the first-in-the-nation primary," State Sen. Andrew Hosmer, D-Laconia, explained in an interview with the Washington Examiner.
According to Hosmer, and several of his Democratic colleagues, the DNC has done New Hampshire voters, and the three Democratic presidential candidates, a disservice by refusing to sanction a last-minute debate proposed by NBC News and the New Hampshire Union Leader.
If approved, the debate would take place at the University of New Hampshire on Feb. 4, just after the Iowa caucuses and five days before voters in the Granite State cast their ballots.
"We have no plans to sanction any further debates before the upcoming First in the Nation caucuses and primary, but will reconvene with our campaigns after those two contests to review our schedule," DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Tuesday.
"I can't understand it," Hosmer said. "New Hampshire voters take this election very seriously, they take these candidates very seriously, and they like to do their homework. And for some reason that we still can't figure out, the DNC has been tone deaf to the desires of New Hampshire voters."
"I'm very disappointed that the DNC won't sanction this debate," said Hosmer's colleague, State Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester. "I mean, it's crazy. The more debates, the better the public is informed about where candidates stand on the issues."
"Why would a party deny an opportunity for its candidates — really its potential nominee — to be more exposed to the public?" he mused.
State Sens. D'Allesandro and Hosmer aren't alone.
With the exception of one, who declined to comment, every Democratic state senator in New Hampshire is up in arms over the DNC's decision to move forward without a debate between the earliest two nominating contests.
"I think it's essential," said State Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, who also serves as vice chair of the Democratic Party of New Hampshire. Fuller Clark claims she's had a "running argument" with Wasserman Schultz about the Democratic debate schedule.
"It's important to understand neither the executive committee of the DNC or members of the DNC, which I am one, ever voted to approve this schedule," she noted. "It was decided by the chairwoman and her staff, and I was dismayed to see she is now blocking this debate from going forward on Feb. 4."
Fuller Clark worries that the chairwoman of her party "doesn't live having her decision-making challenged."
"And I think that's most unfortunate," she said. "You'd have to ask her why she's unwilling to recognize this is something that citizens and voters want and we should be responding to their request."
According to Fuller Clark, the DNC's refusal to sanction a debate before New Hampshire's Feb. 9 primary not only hurts Democrats, it helps Republicans.
"One of the concerns that I have is that by having so few debates, we've really ceded the whole discussion of the Democratic platform versus the Republican platform to the Republicans," she said, adding that it "absolutely hurts the Democratic party."
"What's been talked about in all the newspapers and the newscasts is the Republican debates, so independents are just paying attention to those," she continued. "And we don't have a chance to provide a counterbalance to that."
For now, the unsanctioned Feb. 4 debate is, itself, up for debate.
While former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both expressed interest in participating, a spokesman for Bernie Sanders' campaign has said the Vermont senator will only agree to attend the primetime event if "Sec. Clinton and former Gov. O'Malley agree beforehand to … three post-New Hampshire debates," including one in March and one in April.
"The proposal is simple and straightforward," his campaign said in a statement. "Bernie Sanders wants more debates. We hope the Clinton campaign does too."
If the debate does happen, New Hampshire Democrats are confident the hosts would ensure it's fair, balanced and informative.
"It's a nice partnership," Hosmer said. "The Union Leaders is kind of known for it's very conservative bent and I think MSNBC's Rachel Maddow would be very balanced."
"I'm really excited about the opportunity," he added.