April 26th, 2008
05:24 PM ET
15 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. Josmt

    Let's see how brave Obama is! Does he take head on her challenge? or Does he hide under the table?

    April 26, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  2. Darth Vadik, CA

    This would be worse than the ABC debate, petty points.

    Does it really matter if Obama's pastor is rev Wright, or if Hillary's campaign has gone Republican negative.

    What matters is our Country, we can not let the Republicans destroy the country.


    April 26, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  3. David Goldman for OBAMA




    April 26, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  4. Amy

    Sen. Clinton welcomes the idea because she lies with no remorse; she's a typical politician. The inconsistancies are endless. NAFTA, Iraq vote, role as first lady, the bosnia trip....LOL. HRC lost my vote alog time ago.

    April 26, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  5. Brett

    This is a very sad day. That a Presidential candidate is actually afraid of debating REAL, SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES. Tragic.

    FAUX-BAMA '08!

    April 26, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  6. John WA

    Enough already! Stick to the issues, Hillary. You only want free advertisement because you're in the hole and behind in the race.

    April 26, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  7. Tim, AL

    BOO OBAMA! This would be a great and extremely interesting debate!

    HILLARY '08!

    April 26, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  8. tomdavie

    They just had a debate 10 days ago.

    They can wait until after the May 6th primaries.

    But Obama SHOULD debate Clinton after that.

    April 26, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  9. For Hillary

    We started with two candidates.

    We handicapped one (with hate, biased reporting, false allegations, undue scrutiny) and boosted the other (with adoring coverage, praise, a total lack of scrutiny, and undeserved love affair)

    The DNC jumped in and the celebrity bandwagon and media circus got all geared up.

    They successfully throttled one candidate, who still managed to hang on to almost 50% of the voters- against the barrage of unfairness in the primary. Against the power of the race-card to stir up votes. Against all the bias against her.

    The other candidate gained a small and frail lead. Even with all the favoritism shown and everyone propping him up.

    Finally, when it is too late for the best candidate to overcome the lesser candidate… people start to wake up. The media starts to scrutinize, the messiah stumbles, the message of unity unravels to hatred and racial division. The veneer is gone and we see the ugly beneath the pretty promises of hope and change.

    But it is too late to salvage the race, the party, the people or the election.

    So..we must now pretend we still believe in the lesser candidate who never WAS electable, advanced by crying racist at anyone who questioned him, and should never have been given an unfair advantage.

    April 26, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  10. Umpire

    Sen. Clinton's $10 million in one day is ficticious, so she needs the additional exposure provided by a cost-free debate.

    April 26, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  11. DGW

    Ok, when you start asking for debates at every stop, I would say that you are desperate. You know that the chips are down, he is running out the clock and you need one last desperate chance to whine and try to throw all the sinks one last time.
    What about your policies? tell us why you are running!
    What are you doing? Stick to what you have going for yourself and stop asking for debates. I guess we will hear that he won't debate you.
    If I were him I would not either, the time has come to debate John Mc Cain, you have not done that and so he will. Whoever does that is the nominee and so I guess Mrs Clinton that will not be you.
    Debate back in PA, or NY, or Ak, or maybe even IN or go all the way back to Chicago where you grew up and debate. It is time to tell us what you will do for us and how you plan to defeat John Mc Cain in Nov., We have had 21 debates, enough already.

    April 26, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  12. Dusacre

    21 or 23 debates are more than enough.

    Clinton is free to debate herself. There are many Hillary Clintons from the personality who said that she was honored in Texas debate to compete against Obama, to the one who find her voice in NH, to "shame on you Obama" in Ohio, to the two Kosovo versions of Hillary Clinton…

    There are at least 6 personalities in Clinton. She can therefore arrange a debate between any two of her many personalities.

    Many of us are getting tired of the Clintons false mathematics, breaking rules after they agreed to them, Asking voters for $5.00 contributions but setting the website for at least $10.00. lies lies and lies and deceptions.

    Go away Hillary

    April 26, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  13. Janet WV for Obama

    Who would trust Clinton? She is not good at keeping her woed. Just look at the way she is spinning the Fl and MI vote issue. She agreed that the votes wouldn't count and now she says they do, and most ridiculous of all, she's added tem to her vote total and is proclaiming that now she is ahead! Address the issues and forget this woman!

    April 26, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  14. race card

    Don't worry...
    Playing the race card can't prop Obama up forever.

    Pretty soon there wil be no more Americans for him to label racist.

    April 26, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  15. vic nashville,Tn

    Obama I hate G.W.Bush But today I am telling you , I feel Bush better than You.
    We are Americans , we want strong and smart president, I can see that in Hillary
    Hillary 08 or Mc Cain 08

    April 26, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  16. Rebecca

    Obama learned his lesson from the last debate. Clinton used the debate forum to attack Obama on pure hearsay and dirty tactics. Your own slogan Hillary, "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me." Thanks for your advice Hillary, Obama will net be baited into your dirty tactics forum this time. You can set all the rules you want because you don't play by them anyway, you just expect everyone else to. You are dirty Hillary, I have to go wash my hands now just thinking about you.

    April 26, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  17. Charles

    Exactly, I heard her make this request, but she failed to tell the audience that she turned that the debate in NC. We have debated 4 times and now this the primaries just 10 days away, I think time is more important talking in small town hall meetings then debates. Plus we know that Mrs. Clinton doesnt have money and debates are free media.

    April 26, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  18. Tommy

    Go Hillary. Take him to the cleaners!

    April 26, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  19. We know the truth

    The majority of Americans know the truth.

    You are the best candidate out there.

    On a fair and level playing field you would have won the nomination months ago.

    People do not like fixed elections in the USA.
    We do not like winning by cheating.

    Obama will NOT be our next president.

    So... fight on.

    April 26, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  20. Xanadude of Velen

    Obama is a Coward

    April 26, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  21. lol

    obama's afraid of hillary. she is the stronger candidate, she outperformed him in the last debate. does obama think he can run away from iran, n korea, and syria too?

    April 26, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  22. The Patriot

    Sen. Clinton is a polished poltician, she lies with such ease...the Bosnia sniper fire, the vote for Iraq, her role as first lady. I don't trust her, as she's under investigation for illegal fundraising practices.

    April 26, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  23. George

    yeah we know. She is in debt and finished her money in attacking Obama. Now she wants free advertisement. everybody knows why she needs to debate because she doesnt have money and debate is a good way to do free advertisement.

    April 26, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |


    April 26, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  25. Priscilla for Obama



    April 26, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
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