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. mitch from ark.

    axelrod and gibbs have done a masterful job, during this campaign,and deserve credit for keeping it on message.keep up the good work,don't give in to their 'cheap -shot' politics,of the past,and we ,the people ,will be behind barack all the way.

    April 26, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  2. Cecil

    Sen. Obama doesn't have to jump, when Sen. Clinton Speaks.

    Obama 08

    April 26, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  3. Gary


    There is a difference in running from a debate and simply ignoring a deparate contender. Please know this, Obama is ignoring the plea of a nutt. You call Obama's speaches rhetorical goobedly gook, I call Hillary's speached straight up lies, deceitful, and sick.

    April 26, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  4. Gaby

    Why isn't McCain's endorsement from Hagee being scrutinized further, after all "what's good for the goose is good for the gander."

    Why is Hillary not denouncing and rejecting Rendell for praising Farrakhan?

    Double standards- is this the American way ! ? !

    April 26, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  5. boo23

    Hillary will bury anybody alive to get the nomination. If Obama will win the nomination, she will make sure he would not be elected, just to make her point..

    April 26, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  6. Jack Walden

    OK Hillary, How about a debate in Guam?

    April 26, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  7. Zachary

    Why does she want to fight so much? That's the scary part about Hillary. She just wants to fight. It's a bloodsport to her. Both lose points when they debate, especially with her in the "kill or be killed" mood. Just let these people vote and get it over with.

    April 26, 2008 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  8. SportsGuy

    Screw another debate. Let's vote before John McCain changes his mind.

    April 26, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  9. dan

    She is broke. The Politico is running a story questioning her 10 million dollar haul. She wants a debate because it is free.

    April 26, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  10. Craig

    What will this debate show that hasn't already been shown 21 other times in the past four months? They're virtually identical on the issues.

    I'm sick of the theatrics. Let's get this primary over with already....I'm already considering voting for McCain if this lasts any longer than June, regardless of who wins the Dem nomination.

    April 26, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  11. Why not?

    Senator Obama is chicken to face Clinton – one on one! No one to protect him from head on questions..no one to protect him from Reverend Wright, flip-flop on issues, lies about legislation, true statements that belittle middle america, etc.

    Senator Obama – one great big old 'chicken'!!!!

    April 26, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  12. Gaby

    No More Debates, she had the chance and she blew it. She was not sure that she would win PA. "The tides have turned," and she is right, but in Obama's favor.

    April 26, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  13. james austin tx

    There will be a debate alright...but it will be Mccain explaining to obama his Bush-like economics and the war in Iraq.

    April 26, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  14. cant stand her

    I have started to throw up when I see pictures of Hillary Clinton

    she just makes me so sick

    NAFTA? anyone

    Vote to war in Iraq anyone?

    Interesting how little these issues come up

    April 26, 2008 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  15. Di

    We want a FAIR presidential debate. The challenge of Hillary, one on one, before May 6, 2008, will be very informative and interesting for all of us electorate, Four debates between the two are not sufficient to answer the huge problems our great country is facing now. Besides, the remaining states have the interest to watch debates held in their turf. Senators Clinton & Obama, for the country's sake, have the one on one presidential debate before May 6, 2008.

    April 26, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  16. Jeff

    Why wouldn't Hillary want to debate...again? She's very low on campaign funds, and another debate gives her free air time, and also opens the possibility for a "wow" moment that would be repeated – for free – on every cable news show over and over again. If Hillary runs out of cash in the next week, I'm sure she can write another check to her own campaign.

    21 debates is more than enough, and the last few "debates" didn't really show us anything new about either candidate. Using their time to get close to the people of Indiana and North Carolina serves to benefit those citizens – they deserve nothing less.

    Let's all hope and pray that they play nice and keep things positive...but I'm not holding my breath.

    April 26, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  17. twister49 - oklahoma

    wow..this would be the debate to watch and learn what Obama isn't about–he's terrible in debates...everyone knows that..... is he running scared????

    April 26, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  18. RP

    This is like Huckabee, who wanted a debate when McCain was already unreachable. Please, can someone tell Hillary that this thing is over? She will not be the nominee. Obama is now fundraising for the DNC and running a voter enrollment operation. He's getting ready for Mccain and debating Hillary is just a waste of time.

    April 26, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  19. Thanh

    A 1 on 1 would truly show who has the experience, knowledge, and wit required to run this country.

    If Obama runs away from this, it really shows that there is no substance underneath. It also shows that he runs from his weaknesses rather than face them head on. He talks about open dialogue with N.Korea, Syria, and Iran, but runs from a debate with Clinton, a fellow American? How can you debate with the world without debating at home?

    You can judge a person also by the questions they ask not just by the answers they give.

    An old school debate would be great, because it's extremely difficult to prepare for. You don't know what questions will be asked, and what the questions will lead to.

    April 26, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  20. brush her off

    I'm waiting for Obama to brush her off again.

    That will cost him a few more million votes in Nov.

    Hillary democrats will no longer cross over to Obama if he is the nominee.

    WE have seen him for the cocky, jeering, mocking, petty child that he is. Oh yeah, I do not care what color he is. My family is even more hodgepodge and melting pot than his is.

    So I won't cower under your insults or your racist label. I know exactly who I am and what I stand for.

    April 26, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  21. Caroline

    So she lied again. Whatever. False in one, false in all, aina?

    April 26, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  22. NY

    The question shouldn't be why won't he debate her it should be why does she feel like she needs one so badly at this point!!!!!!!!! Nuff said!

    April 26, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |

    why is Obama so afraid to debate?

    April 26, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  24. Obama Express

    Wow! "Fuzzy Math" Hillary is at it again–they have only had 4 debates! Yeah right, and I'm Elvis Presley!

    April 26, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  25. Kimberly

    I for one would like to see another debate. Let Obama show his true self and quit hiding. Hillary Clinton won the last debate and he knows it. I think he's scared.

    April 26, 2008 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
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