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. Danny in Pittsburgh

    Oh now come on! Hillary now wants to play victim on live television...she might as well be sweatin' in a corner at a wrestling wring...

    How can none of you be tired of this tired, vacuous, say-anything politician?

    April 26, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  2. Jean

    NO MORE DEBATES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    NO MORE DEBATES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    HILLARY WHY DO YOU WANT TO DEBATE??????????????????

    April 26, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  3. Fred, Seattle

    From Senator Obama's standpoint, how do you debate with someone who has no integrity (FL, MI, NAFTA, CAFTA ), no ethics (her Rovian tactics against a fellow Dem) and, (who in her own words) is an admitted liar (Sniper gate)???

    WHY would "anyone" believe "anything" she says???

    April 26, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  4. Shirley

    Shut-up Hillary! You're grasping at straws because you know that time is running out on you.

    April 26, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  5. ron

    eli, i don't think you want people to know that Wright said that Obama denounced his comments because he was being a "politician".

    Face it Obama is a two faced liar!

    April 26, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  6. Joe MN

    gee .. she wants more free TV time? Or is it because she can't do as many events cause she DON'T PAY HER BILLS!

    April 26, 2008 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  7. Connie-Birmingham

    Good response! The voters need to meet and speak directly to Senator Obama! His words are being dissected, twisted, turned in and out through the media outlets! If the voters want to know and hear from him in Indiana...the time spent with them will be well worth it.

    April 26, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  8. Alex F

    Debates don't mean votes!!! And by the way, no more straws to grasp. The smell of desperation is wretched.

    April 26, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  9. united with Hillary

    No Nos No Nos Moveran.

    United, as American we will prevail.

    Labeled as racists for differing on who makes the better president, we will only fall into disunity.

    Hillary see us ALL as Americans and does not leave anybody behind. Her American is ONE of many races, creeds and opinions.

    Obama wants an American like Pastor Wrights Church rantings.

    April 26, 2008 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  10. nancy

    what a chicken. he can't even face hillary, how the hell does he think he can be president of the U.S.? what a joke.

    April 26, 2008 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  11. E>Dozois

    I have just one word,no, quack quake quake to obama

    April 26, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  12. The coolest

    She is one of the coolest, strongest, most intelligent 60 year olds out there. Us rabble-rousing Baby boomers can still rock.

    Go Hillary.

    April 26, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  13. Bruce

    Senator Obama recognizes what Sen. Clinton does not–that debate #22 would be yet another exercise in ignoring the issues important to voters, namely, the economy, healthcare, the Iraq war, energy policy, and education reform. We've heard what they both have to say ad nauseam. Can we, please, just vote and finally bring this sad season to an end?

    April 26, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  14. justin

    There have been plenty of debates. It is time for democrats in Indiana to end this thing. A vote for Hillary at this point might as well be a dollar to the RNC. Oh and why do we have to have a 19th century style debate when we are living in the 21st century?

    April 26, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  15. TheDonald

    This woman sure likes STREET FIGHTING!

    April 26, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  16. CNN won't un-moderate this but......


    April 26, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  17. chris in vegas

    no more debates until the G.E....21 is enough

    April 26, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  18. Observation

    If 95% of their domestic and foreign policies are identical, then why would anyone want to waste his/her precious time watching the most monotonous debate? The last time I checked, Indiana and North Carolina are part and parcel of the United States. That means, the residents of these two great states watch the cable news and read newspapers. They have seen all the debates already.

    The last attribute that I want to see of any leader is “trying to look good at the expenses of others” I mean, she can make one heck of a dictator, and that scares me to death. Senator Clinton changes rules as she goes. I think that’s a matter of concern!. Am I the only one out there?.

    April 26, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  19. tai

    Perhaps the Lincoln-Douglas style debate is the way to engage in the substantive policy differences that everyone seems to begging for.

    April 26, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  20. RT in Toronto

    good question from eli.... Why is the PBS interview with Rev. Wright not being reported...could it be doesn't fit the sound bite mentality of the talking heads and the news producers of CNN, MSNBC and Fox, etc.

    Can we get to some serious issues..we're getting bored with the gotcha' approach of the media.

    April 26, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  21. merle 7

    Hillary go debate with your self in a mirror, If you havent convinced the american people you are ready from day one then you never will.

    Obama 08!

    April 26, 2008 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  22. Pat

    Finally! A candidate wants to do a real debate with no pretenses or setups. It's unfortunate Obama is too afraid to do it. Poor guy, he doesn't want people to see how weak he is.

    April 26, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  23. Kenneth M.

    As an Obama supporter I am shocked that he wont debate her again. He needs to get back on the horse. Personally I think he did well at the last debate.

    April 26, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  24. Darrell

    Eli we are tired of the dirty tricks and I am tired of people like you who just do not get it. We want to hear about the economy, Iraq withdrawal, healthcare not Rev. Wright. He is not running for office and neither are you. So get a grasp on the election rather than the dirt if you want dirt sweep it out of your closet first.

    April 26, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  25. realist

    Clinton News Network does not like to show the upsides for Obama, but rather the downsides of him, and only clips of her doing positive things,

    Her husband must have a lot of friends there too, good thing her husband made so many good connections while he was president otherwise she would be done by now

    April 26, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
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