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. dale in indiana

    obama won't debate because hillary will eat him alive and he knows it so he comes up with all these flimsy excuses. no spine just spin

    April 26, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  2. David

    Nice Gimmick, Hillary.

    I would rather hear Senator Clinton tell me why I should vote for her.
    "I have solutions" is not an answer.

    April 26, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  3. Grant

    The Clintons are out of money, that is why they are pushing for debates...she would have one every night, free add money on CNN's dime......This has nothing to do with the electorate, it is the only option left for a dying campaign.....no wonder 65% of Amercians cannot stand this woman

    April 26, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  4. Jay

    The time for debates is over. We know what they are both about and their flaws. Let's get the contests over with.

    April 26, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  5. Neutral

    Obama can't debate without teleprompter, he's too green, he doesn't have grasp of issues that matters to the American people. Obama also FEAR how he would answer a particular question from the audience him and his campaign WRITE OFF blue collar workers. According to Axelrod, they don't need blue collar workers to win.

    April 26, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  6. former democrat

    Whoever posted the comment about Rev Wright is obviously prejudiced. Weeks were spent discussing him wrt Obama, yet there is almost no discussion about the Pastors whose endorsements McCain actively sought and is glad he got and will not 'repudiate and denounce' although he has siad things that I find much more offensive especially as a Catholic. Why is that, is it because rev wright is black??? Besides, gun toting, sniper dodging, sleepless Clinton just wants a chance to bash Obama for free so she can win in 2012

    April 26, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  7. Ratgurl

    It's a last-ditch effort to try to sabotage Obama. She's all about herself, while Obama's thinking of America.

    So sad, Hill

    April 26, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  8. dsp, Santa Rosa, CA


    These people (politicians) need to stop talking and start doing!

    None of these debates have been informative except to inform us (the viewer) of the political bias of the news agencies.

    If you don't "get it" by now... maybe not all the dots are on your dice.

    I say the DNC closes shop right now... do a closed National Election of Dems and whoever gets the most votes goes on to beat Sen. McCain.

    No more talking! Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk...... We could have fed a third world nation with expensive rice for what it's cost to run only one ot these campaigns. This is just plain crazy! Do Something! (and lead me to help us succeed!).

    Some directions are needed!

    April 26, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  9. Ben

    I don't know, I'm an Obama man myself, but a one-on-one debate seems intriguing. That really is the democratic ideal: a kind of ideological survival of the fittest. That said, I don't trust Clinton in an unmediated debate: she's scrappy, rude, and knows how to pummel you below the belt. The thing would probably degenerate into squabbling before long.

    April 26, 2008 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  10. michael g

    11 million people watched the last debate. Yet Obama doesn't want it. We should be asking Obama why he doesn't want to debate, not Clinton.

    Guess he decided to stay out of the kitchen.

    April 26, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  11. anything goes

    Obama will never regain Hillary democrats.

    His supporters have made certain of that with their blind arrogance, their name-calling and insults, their presumption of higher education (all evidence to the contrary from these blogs) and their ugly nastiness.

    So Obama has shot himself in the foot with his divisive brand of unity (sounds like Wright's strategy), his deceitful brand of honesty, his old style politics of change.

    We have seen the hype of hope and we have chosen the realistic doer, Hillary Clinton.

    April 26, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  12. Sue

    I think that's a great idea! ...after all, it WAS Obama who was complaining about the moderation and questions in the last debate.

    ...then again, all we would hear from Sen. Obama is "I agree with Sen. Clinton" for 90 min.

    Hillary 08

    April 26, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  13. Garnet

    What will we debate about? The war.? Garnishing my wages for your lobbyists?(insurnace). Or how about Bill's remarks? "Stealing a car? Misspoke at 11:pm after a long day? I know, the 10 mil. you and Bill donated to charity. (On your taxes, remember? The 10 mil. you both gave to Bill's library.) Or how bout the Colombia deal?

    April 26, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  14. Cecil

    Waste of time, keep hiting the trails Obama, That really works for you!

    Obama 08

    April 26, 2008 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  15. Texican

    Come on Obama what are you afraid of. A real debate on the issues.
    Hillary will clean your clock. That is why you won't debate her freestyle.

    No more clues from the moderators and no hands barred debate that is what we are asking for in this one. No love fest either. Like the previous 3 debates.

    April 26, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  16. Ratgurl

    It's a last-ditch effort to try to sabotage Obama. She's all about herself, while Obama's thinking of America.

    So sad, Hill

    April 26, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  17. James, Houston

    Obama, here's a Guy that will not debate Hillary on a ONE to One Basis and he will meet with AlQueda ? When, and on what Basis?
    Houston, We've Got A Problem !

    April 26, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  18. Perrera Nazi

    Obama should debate! A good looking, handsome, messiah of hope can easily win all debates!!!

    Together we can change this world!!!!

    P.S.: CNN stop ghettoising the comments and post them.

    April 26, 2008 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  19. Key West Sun

    One on One, he has got all these questions he keep back stabbing Hillary with, then come on and go at her face to face for an hour. If the man is scared of Hillary, how is he going to broker all these big treaties he keep talking about. Smoke and mirrors is all he is,,,sad he got so many fools to follow him.

    April 26, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  20. Jean

    I don't understand this game it was not the same campiagn director who refused the North Carolina CBS debate before PA primay .
    Now the cry for one the same old game .

    April 26, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  21. Lee - Warwick, RI

    Hillary – please please do us all a favor and GET OUT of the race. Your continuing presence is ruining the party and our chances in November.

    April 26, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  22. Lynn Waldrip

    Those are your values? We are in serious trouble!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 26, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  23. NY

    If HRC wants a debate so badly then she should debate her multiple personalities on ABC. This should boost their ratings! Hopefully the normal /good one wins.....

    April 26, 2008 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  24. catmom

    So, what is Obama afraid of? No one to ask him questions that everyone really wants to know but are afraid to ask? Can't put his plans together and express them vocally rather than on a web site? Again, what is he afraid of? He had a horrible debate in PA and it was everyone else's fault. Here is an opportunity to let not only the people of Indiana see and hear him, but people all over the country. Practice makes perfect, what is he afraid of?

    April 26, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  25. Jimmy

    I think this is a great idea. I would love to see those 2 debate without any monitors. This way we will be able to findout what they really think.

    April 26, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
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