April 26th, 2008
05:24 PM ET
10 years ago

Clinton challenges Obama to Lincoln-Douglas style debate


Watch Sen. Clinton explain her proposal to debate Sen. Obama one-on-one without a moderator.

SOUTH BEND, Indiana (CNN) – Standing on the field of South Bend’s minor league baseball team the Silver Hawks, Hillary Clinton challenged Barack Obama to a debate in Indiana before the state's May 6 primary. Clinton has repeatedly asked for a debate before the next contest, but this time there was a twist.

“I’m offering Sen. Obama a chance to debate me one-on-one, no moderators. Just the two of us going for 90 minutes asking and answering questions, we’ll set whatever rules seem fair,” Clinton told supporters.

A letter sent from Clinton’s campaign manager to Obama’s revealed more details about the Lincoln-Douglas style debate – “No questioners, no panelists, no video clips. One candidate would speak for two minutes, then the other, alternating back and forth all the way through the debate. Their discussion – not any pre-set rules – would determine how long they spend on one subject before moving on to another.”

Obama has complained that the widely-panned April 16 debate in Philadelphia wasn’t substantive enough and points to the 21 debates the candidates have already participated in when asked why he doesn't want another.

“We’ve had four debates between Sen. Obama and myself,” Clinton countered, “we’ve had debates other candidates were in, but just four between the two of us.”

Shortly after Clinton’s remarks, Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod rejected the challenge out of hand, telling CNN, “In the next nine days we're going to devote our attention to the voters and we will see where we are after May 6. It doesn't matter whether it's Lincoln-Douglas, standing, sitting, what language it is in, it does not matter.” (Related video: Watch David Axelrod on Ballot Bowl Saturday.)

Update: The Obama campaign released this statement by Communications Director Robert Gibbs after David Axelrod spoke with CNN.

"We have participated in 21 nationally televised debates, the most in primary history, including four exclusively with Senator Clinton.  Senator Clinton refused an earlier invitation that had been accepted to debate in North Carolina.  Over the next 10 days, we believe it's important to talk directly to the voters of Indiana and North Carolina about fixing our economy, cutting the cost of health care and ending a war in Iraq that never should have been authorized in the first place."


soundoff (376 Responses)
  1. B-DOGG

    NO MORE DEBATES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Candidates should just do more town hall meetings and have the american people ask them questions that concern them.

    April 26, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  2. brian bernard

    hillary please stop thats enough debates your acting like a kid that cant get there way the man said no .Nooooooooo means Nooooooo

    April 26, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. dezerek

    Oh my gosh!!!!

    Obama Debated over 20 times with Hillary Clinton about the same things….what new stuff is there to debate about…. are you kidding me!!! I'm soooo freak'n tired of this whole thing. I had so much respect for the Clinton's til this year. they are unscrupulous people who twist things out of context, lie, and do anything for the presidency.

    Barack Obama is 1/2 white and 1/2 black who was raised by his white mother, white grand parents and partially by his Asian step father. How in the world can this man be a racist.

    NO candidate has an economic plan that would go into effect this year!

    NO candidate has a health plan that will go into effect this year!

    NO candidate has a fuel plan that will go into effect this year either! Mccain's fuel tax plan would have to go through the current administration of idiots.

    Obama is the only candidate that did not side with George Bush on the whole blank check, war chest mentality.

    The economy is terrible because of the WAR!! and the terrible uncertainty and debt that the American government keeps accruing.
    the economy could change. fuel prices could fall. Although unlikely who knows…

    Obama ideally is running on the same platform-policy wise-as Clinton, except he has a lot more integrity and his campaign is funded solely by the people.

    Clinton voters seem to be very uneducated when it comes to knowing the truth on the issues. Stop being "fear mongers" and unite the democratic party! Don't give into the corporations that fund the other candidates…. stand with the people. stand with America

    April 26, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  4. Clinton attacks democartes base

    Clinton if you wanted a debate you should have agreed to the same one Obama already agreed too. Obama said way before Clinton that he wanted a debate but CLINTON said NO and then later wants to change the date and say Obama doesn't want it.

    Clinton is a liar.......A striaght to your face, and i don't care about anyone liar.

    For crying outloud on the senate floor Democrates are speaking about how Clitons real goal is to make Obama loose the GE so she can run again.

    April 26, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  5. Tom(Philadelphia)

    We've heard enough from you whining, complaining mouth. You think you are a midwesterner? Well I am from the heartland, St. Louis, and you should have thought about that before becoming a big mouthed New Yorker. Obama won't debate you because you are more concerned with winning debates than figuring out how to help Americans. Get over yourself Clinton. Now you are a midwesterner, come November will you go to New York and tell them you are a city girl. You humiliate yourself and our party. Drop Out!!!!!

    April 26, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  6. Bruce

    These debates a getting old. Their is not nothing new

    April 26, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  7. Marjorie Helms, Amherst, NY

    Oh, please, Hillary! You've already had so many opportunities to honestly debate the issues. Instead, you've spent the past two months running Republican-style attack ads, and causing more harm to the Democratic party than Karl Rove himself! Why not do the honorable thing – set aside your ego, step out of this acidic race you've created, and let Obama represent the people?......

    April 26, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  8. Naomi

    Is she kidding me! What else is their to proof? I have seen enough debates this year. I am no longer interested. NO THANKS, HILARY!

    April 26, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  9. Jay Shah

    Dear Billary,

    We all know your true intentions for having a debate. You want to tear down Obama as much as you can in hopes of trying to get a rise out of him. All you value is your own political ambition. Please drop out of this race, because it is clear you have no chance of winning,

    thank you

    April 26, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  10. Barbara

    I can't help but wonder what Ahhbama is so affraid of?? Scared to debate a woman because she runs circles around him on the issues! I suppose if cornered by a world leader you will run with your tail between your legs! Some Commader in Chief! God help America!

    April 26, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  11. Sean Dunn

    Yes, the person who is behind, in debt, and in real trouble of being eliminating in nine days is demanding a fair, issue based debate – because we have not elarned enough about the two candidates during the other 20.5 debates (.5 debate was Evening Magazine, not debating). What a shock. And, if Obama says no, he's hiding.

    Dear Mr and Mrs Clinton – we are not morons out here. We do not beleive you are ahead in the popular vote. We do not beleive that you MUSST NOT disenfranchise Michigan and Florida while arguing that you ABSOLUTELY MUST disenfranchise the other 48 states. And we know Bill inhaled. Give it a break.

    If you had done better earlier; if you planned to caucus; if you had people on the ground after Feb 5th; if you had any chance to catch up; this might make sense. But it doesn't. God, to think I voted for you twice and sent you money in 2007. You people drive me nuts!

    April 26, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  12. Dangelo

    I am sick and tired of Hillary she is bringing down my community and the my DEM party. I have been tracking this election like no other. She is losing a game she is supposed to know how to play...

    If you want to debate you are going to have to talk to yourself and ask why you are training and why you lose 11 straight contest. Also you weren't upset about FLA and MICH until you realized you were in trouble and the white house was not destined for you or you Hubby Mr. Bill Clinton. You are acting like you dont have any communication devices...YOU ARE LOSING AND YOU ACT LIKE TAKING THE PARTY DOWN WITH YOU IS YOUR RIGHT...YOU ARE WRONG YOUR NAME HAS LOST ITS FIRE WITHIN THE BLACK COMMUNITY. IF THE SUPERDELEGATES PICK YOU I AM GOING TO GET EVERYONE I KNOW TO VOTE FOR JOHN "BUSH" MCCAIN


    April 26, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  13. Jonathan

    Obama couldn't handle a real debate. He's little more than a glorified motivational speaker holding all the media in adulated enthral. Voting for him because he is black is as bad as not voting for him because he is black. And if he wasn't black, he would not still be in this running. We need a President that can fix the disaster our nation has become. Someone with real experience with a history that proves it. Clinton's true history of public service, not the paranoid illusions the right wing set up for two decades. If you believe those old lies, you'll believe anything. Remember, we're not voting for our 'Favorite Person', we're voting for the best person to lead this country from the road of corruption and financial ruin that the Republicans set us down.

    April 26, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  14. learn from Obama

    Maybe Hillary should learn from Obama...

    duck the tough questions and skirt all the issues.

    get your minions out there to trash your opponent... then claim that you don't feel that way but were JUST saying that there are people out there who say those things.

    News for the Obama folks... we think you are over-playing the race card. We think you are devious hypocrits. Hillary doesn't think so, but WE the people do.

    April 26, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  15. mick

    Maybe Ms. Clinton should challenge Obama to a 1 on 1 basketball shoot out, Obama might win that he looked pretty good the other night.
    All the fans that wrote about Ms. Clinton asking for five dollars and say that it starts at twentyfive they are right however I can't think what OTHER: means, is that the money you say Ms.Clinton our former First Lady took from Obama? Or is that where you type in five dollars?

    April 26, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  16. Shirley

    Hillary needs to address the following issues:

    1. Why didn't you tell the voter's Bill was being paid to lobby for the Columbian Trade Deal?
    2. How could your campaign manager, Penn, leave in the middle of your campaign for a trip to Columbia in support of the Trade Agreement without your knowledge?
    3. On Jan. 10, 2008 the North Carolina Republic paper quoted you
    " I will not withdraw the troops from Iraq", did you say this?
    4. The public is asking about the Federal Case 'Clinton vs Paul' what can you tell them about the charges you are facing?
    5. How will your Governmant mandated Health Plan premiums be collected, and what will the fine be for those who do not choose to participate?
    6. Does your Government Health plan mean that billon dollar Corporations will not longer be providing health care for their employees?

    No more debates about flag pins until Hillary is held accountable for these important campaign issues.

    April 26, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  17. A CANUCK

    H.illary is totally obsessed. Winning is her reason for existing!! Losing to someone younger will send her over the edge. She is desperate and it's getting scary !!!!

    April 26, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  18. Jer

    No more Debates!!! We've heard enough already, this is getting really old!! There's nothing more for these two to discuss with each other right now. Obama is doing the right thing by focusing on getting the job done and winning the nomination rather than wasting more time.

    This is just Hillary trying to get another chance to do what she does best, bully people around.

    April 26, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  19. every day

    Each and every day, Hillary shines more and Obama tarnishes his own image of honest and trashes his own message of hope.

    Obama is not change... Just the color of his skin is- well !/2 is.

    April 26, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  20. Gaby

    HRC only wants this debate because she needs money and free media coverage. Enough with the debates, Barack wants to talk to his voters, get to the issues that they are concerned about. What part of NO does Hillary not understand??????

    Obama 08

    April 26, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  21. Zoey

    It seems that Hiliary is looking for some "free t.v. time" exposure. After 21 debates…I think we have seen enough.

    April 26, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  22. Rob

    Sorry hillary!

    No Free Air time for you!

    April 26, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  23. Kentucky voter

    I would rather hear directly from the candidates than watch another debate. Whether you count four or 21, it's enough.

    April 26, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  24. BabyObama

    Obama camp says already enough debates.
    Only 4 between Clinton and Obama.
    Is it enough???

    April 26, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  25. Antonio

    This will be my first election. I have seen enough debates and heard enough from the media and the candidates to form an intelligent decision. Please, enough already. Let's move on - no more debates, no more debates.

    April 26, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
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