August 19th, 2007
08:16 AM ET
15 years ago

Obama to limit future debate appearances

Senator Barack Obama, D-Illinois.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Barack Obama will limit the number of debates and forums he will attend and instead focus more of his time campaigning in key presidential primary and caucus states, the Illinois Democrat's campaign manager announced on Saturday.

In a statement posted on Obama's website, "Debates and forums going forward," campaign manager David Plouffe notes that Obama has already participated in seven debates and 19 forums. With just a little more than four months before the Iowa caucuses, the Obama campaign has decided to take more control of the senator's schedule.

"Unfortunately, we simply cannot run the kind of campaign we want and need to, engaging with voters in the early states and February 5 states, if our schedule is dictated by dozens of forums and debates," Plouffe wrote. "Ultimately, the one group left out of the current schedule is the voters and they are the ones who ask the toughest questions and most deserve to have those questions answered face to face."

The Illinois Democrat will participate in the five remaining Democratic National Committee sanctioned debates, a September debate sponsored by Univision in Florida and two Iowa debates in December. Obama will also consider participating in forums - events where candidates are not on the stage at the same time - but Plouffe noted "we are unlikely to accept many of these."

Ploffe acknowledged it is a risky strategy, because it could alienate important Democratic constituencies who were planning debates and forums in the coming months.

"Many friends and terrific organizations are sponsoring or planning to sponsor debates and forums," Plouffe wrote. "So this is not an easy decision for us to execute. But it simply won't work to navigate this one by one. We felt we needed to make our approach clear and consistent. I think this approach will be better for the voters and the campaign."

Plouffe said the campaign will evaluate what debates to participate in when the calendar turns to January.

The next DNC sanctioned debate will be held Sunday morning in Iowa and broadcast on ABC.

- CNN's Jamie Crawford and Mark Preston

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Race to '08
soundoff (103 Responses)
  1. Barbara, San Antonio

    What a great idea. Mr. Obama can indeed spend quality time getting to know the voters up close and personal. He can also not be as concerned about the nitpicking which has become quite irritating and noticeable. Finally, overexposture will not be an issue since by now, real political observers practially know what each will say as soon as the question is asked. The question is, how will his non-participation affect the other candidates since they all seem to want to make him the punching bag. I applaud Mr. Obama for this strategy.

    August 18, 2007 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. DR

    This is a good strategy by the Obama Campaign. I think it's important to spread out the different campaining methods because not everyone is able to view or attend events and they deserve to hear from the candidates too.

    You can't poll and debate your way to the White House. At some point, you have to talk to the actual voters one on one. I expect to see other canidiates scale back on debates as well. In the mean time, Hillary and Edwards should be happy that they now have an additional 5 to 10 whole minuets to debate seeing that they wanted to limit the mumber of people in the first place. LOL

    August 18, 2007 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. Wynter Greens , Portland Oregon


    There are way too many debates anyway. Obama should limit his debates to just the meaningful ones and the DNC sactioned debates. That's all. This other stuff is meaningless and before the debate get's going, the Media has already decided that Hillary won despite the polls after that show that Obama or Edwards won. So, why be in them? Hillary has already won them all according to the Media.

    August 18, 2007 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  4. Renee St.Louis

    I am proud the Obama Camp. This debate mess is so bias for HIllary. No matter how many mistakes she make the media is going to say she won.

    Hillary is a Joke. Let her destroy herself.

    August 18, 2007 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  5. VanReuter NY NY

    I am sure that if this headline said, "Clinton to Limit Future Debate Appearances", that the same people posting what a great idea it is, would be singing a different tune.

    He didn't do very well in an unscripted format, lost every debate to Senator Clinton, and is now seeking to cut his losses. Good for him.


    August 18, 2007 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  6. ST from JC

    I think this is an excellent decision. It's unfortunate that no matter if Hillary gets booed or focus groups have decided that Sen. Obama was the clear winner, MSM so-called politcal pundits (former Clinton adversors) will continue to say Hillary won. Now watch Hillary follow suit as she always does.

    August 18, 2007 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  7. David, Salinas, CA

    I like Obama, (and the rest of the Democratic candidates as well). But I don’t see this as a good strategy. If Obama is in the lead and doesn’t debate the other candidates get to take free shots and call him chicken. If he’s trailing, the others ignore him and the voters forget he exists. Either way he loses.

    Personally, I like having lots of debates, but I do think there are too many candidates on stage. There has to be a cut-off somewhere and I’m not sure it serves us as voters to give Mike Gravel equal time with candidates who might actually become President.

    August 18, 2007 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  8. Juanito, Washington, DC

    I agree with the sentiments preceding my post. I watched Obama's appearance in Cedar falls this past wednesday (thanks CSPSAN!), and the best questions do come from regular people. He took questions from republicans, democrats and independents in the audience, and his responses were very thorough, direct and unscripted. More of that kind of candor is what we need, not soundbites from debates that the media will tell us Hillary won even when actual voters in focus groups say otherwise.

    August 18, 2007 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  9. Evan Esteves, Boca Raton, FL

    Van...every thread you post in about Obama you seem to hate on him and his "DEMOCRATIC" supporters...what's your beef man? Lighten up, we're Democrats, the Obama followers aren't your attacks for them

    August 18, 2007 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  10. Blair Ivey Georgia

    Obama Goodby – So long do not let the door hit you in the --

    August 18, 2007 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  11. Chip Celina OH

    I flipped C-SPAN on a little earlier and they were showing Obama at a campaign event in Iowa. I'm sorry I turned the show on too late to see his speech, but I did catch him walking through the crowd.. He was late to an appearance somewhere else but took the time to stop and talk to the people and the stuff I heard him saying was reasoned, and he didn't talk down to the people. The best quality of his that came through to me was he actually listened to the people and replied based on the question, not in sound bites.

    David, Salinas, I enjoy your posts but must wonder about your statement "I’m not sure it serves us as voters to give Mike Gravel equal time with candidates who might actually become President".

    You may think he's a whack job (or not) but how will you know until you can compare and contrast?

    Have a great day,


    August 18, 2007 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  12. Kim, Mpls, MN

    Finally someone steps up and says something about this crazy schedule. I'm a diehard, but this was becoming way too much.

    Thanks Senator Obama! Leading the way once again.

    BTW, even the Republicans were making fun of all the debates the democrats were doing....I totally agree.

    August 18, 2007 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  13. Alex Luthor, Madison, WI

    David said: I like having lots of debates, but I do think there are too many candidates on stage. There has to be a cut-off somewhere and I’m not sure it serves us as voters to give Mike Gravel equal time with candidates who might actually become President.

    Way to limit voters options there, David.
    Too many candidates on stage? Simple solution. Have 2 debates on the same day. Both debates should be 2 hours, contain half the candidates (drawn by lottery). Then do it again the same day with the other half.

    This way you don't "shut-out" candidates that should be heard. Every candidate running for the democratic nomination is more than qualified to be President.

    Mike Gravel? You mean the Senator who waged a one-man filibuster for five months, forced the Nixon administration to cut a deal, effectively ending the draft?
    The same guy who released the Pentagon Papers (the secret official study that revealed the lies and manipulations of administrations that misled the country into the Vietnam War)?

    Yeah, let's not let him speak. Let's get rid of Richardson and Kuchinich, too. We don't need any choices in candidates.

    August 18, 2007 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  14. VanReuter NY NY

    "Van…every thread you post in about Obama you seem to hate on him..."
    Posted By Evan Esteves, Boca Raton, FL : August 18, 2007 3:46 pm

    Where do you read, "Hate", in my post?
    Where are you when the Obama supporters heap real hate on Senator Clinton on this site every day? I look forward to seeing you tell the Hillary-haters to cease and desist, because, "we're Democrats.". It isn't just republicans who hurl hate-speech at Senator Clinton. I will keep defending her and pointing out the double-standard that exists when it comes to comments about the two candidates. I invite you to join me in defending ALL the candidates from hateful rhetoric.


    August 18, 2007 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  15. David, Salinas, CA

    Chip & Alex –

    I don’t think Mike Gravel is a “whack job” at all, and I shouldn’t have singled him out. I have great respect for his courage and accomplishments, particularly the filibuster you mentioned, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and his efforts to bring the Pentagon Papers to light. Here is a link to his campaign web site:

    But I do think there are too many podiums on the stage and we have to draw the line somewhere. There are literally thousands of minor Presidential candidates. I want equal opportunity for everyone to get their voice heard, but ultimately we need to compare those who might actually get elected. I recognize this is tricky business and I’m not sure of my own opinion on this issue, but please know I’m not trying to limit democracy.

    I enjoy both your postings. And once again, my apologies to Senator Gravel.

    August 18, 2007 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  16. Boomer, America

    I learned that tactic in elementary school. It was called "Duck and Cover."

    August 18, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  17. Mick, Washington DC

    Obama is not a real contender. He's a pretender. After his immaturish remarks about sending US troops onto Pakistan soil and strike targets to catch Bin Laden, the guy really shows his lack of international affairs acumen. Even fellow Democrats were shaking their heads on that one. He's a great senator and local politican, and let's keep it that way. I don't think he has the seniority or political pull to gather and lead the nation.

    August 18, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  18. John Edw. Bush - stuart FL

    Hold on a minute there, Senator!

    It's OK for Barack Obama to turn down an invitation; but Gov Romney declines Communist News Network – oops I mean CNN's loser debate and he gets ripped apart.

    August 18, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  19. Lyn, MD

    Everyone else is free to attend all of the debates they like. What will be interesting is how many will there be and how many people will come with out him there.

    Biden and Dodd didn't attend the Gay and Lesbian debate, Mike G didn't attend the AFLCIO and nothing was said. If he is such a loser then his presence shouldn't matter.

    Afterall didn't Hillary and John say they wanted smaller debates with fewer people on the stage? be careful what you ask for

    August 18, 2007 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  20. grace Jacksonville, FL

    Keep on keeping on! I am on your side.

    August 18, 2007 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  21. Evan Esteves, Boca Raton, FL

    Hey I'm not a big Hillary fan, but I as a democrat know that any democratic candidate is better than the republican field that is out there (including Fred Thompson), but you have pointed out to the fact that you don't like Obama supporters in another thread as well...Yet you will ask them to come together for Hillary if she does win the nomination. All I said is to point your anger at the people that really deserve it...The republicans.

    August 18, 2007 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  22. David, Los Angeles, CA

    Well, of course he's done debating. He's an empty suit. Obama seems like a nice dude, but I need to hear some hard policy and not all these useless platitudes about how we need "change" and "unity." Anybody can win votes telling people that we should just all get along. It takes true guts to really step out and weather controversy. Where's the beef, Obama?

    August 18, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  23. Juanito, Washington, DC

    Predictably, Hillary Clinton's camp is attacking Obama on a shock!


    The spinning has already started. A source close to the Clinton campaign fired a zinger off quickly: "So he'll meet with dictators but not the black caucus or seniors in Iowa?"

    Hillary's people are beyond absurd.

    August 18, 2007 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  24. Bill, Raleigh, NC

    Obviously, the Obama clan realizes that he has no idea what he's talking about, and they need him to keep his mouth shut and prevent further screwups.

    August 18, 2007 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  25. Mrs. America

    By now what they all say is fairly predictable. I can see cutting back on the debates, at least until the field is narrowed a little, which will happen with or without debates.

    August 18, 2007 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
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