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. Andy

    Looks like Hillary saw a certain episode of The West Wing recently, and was inspired!

    April 26, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  2. Helene

    What about a boxing match ? Or a mud fight ? Please ! We had 23 debates and that's enough.

    April 26, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  3. Irene

    That woman is a piece of work......Why does she need to debate....I wont watch....the last one was bad enough....I don't care to see her little smirk. She brings up the most stupid stuff.....Does she have another neighbor of Obama's she wants to bring up......PLEASE

    April 26, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  4. Hater

    Hillary we don't need another debate to get to know you , we know you and don't want you. Another debate won't change that fact

    April 26, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  5. eli

    CNN, Why wouldn't you place my comment???

    April 26, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  6. FW


    I will cross over to Obama. Please stop representing the entire democratic party. Obama has more delegates and popular votes than Hillary.

    What are you talking about??

    April 26, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    She needs money!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NO MORE DEBATES...21 is ENOUGH.!

    April 26, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  8. JimM from TN

    He will not debate. He is just a wimp.

    He looks like a little boy, standing next to his white mother. But he want be able to throe her under a bus, to the back of the bus, to the front of the bus, or in front of the bus.

    She can beat him bowling for heavens sakes, much less in a debate.

    He better stick to playing hoops. He must be prepared to be President, don't you know/

    April 26, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  9. Barbara in NC

    Brush her off – you must live in PA or CA. Here in NC we get ONLY ONE VOTE EACH. WOW ! A million votes from one person – I'm impressed.

    April 26, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |

    Well Said Blogger (Brush her off) "So I won't cower under your insults or your racist label.. I know exactly who I am and what I stand for" Good Blog!!

    April 26, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  11. Venus

    Obama is not ducking having another debate with Hillary!

    Howard Dean stepped in and cancelled the last debate that was going to be held in North Carolina!

    The Party and members are sick of Hillary and we need to play this out!

    Some of Hillary's thugs Lanny Davis has file a claim against Howard regarding the debate that was set up in North Carolina!!!

    I love it! There is so much going on behind the lens of TV!

    Also – we are not going to the convention this year! Since we have more primaries set to go - we will have to play this out!

    Hillary can't win and she will not be able to change any rules!

    Also – the people in North Carolina has already given Hillary a very stern warning – not to bring any of her negatives there!

    Obama just have to stay focus and win as many states as he can.

    April 26, 2008 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  12. Gibberish

    We do not want to hear any more garbage. Enough debates, let this be over already. Mrs. Clinton please, no more negative and hateful campaigning. Thank you.

    April 26, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  13. Norm

    Shut UP HELLARY....

    Lincoln debated to unite the country not to build walls and cause a division. You are traitor and anti-american. Get out and get lost

    April 26, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  14. fred

    brush her off April 26th, 2008 6:35 pm ET

    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.

    Very well said and I will second that!!

    Hillary or McCain. Obama will lose more voters than those polls show. He will not have a prayer in Nov!!!

    April 26, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |

    The American people have heard 21 debates. It is apparent she hasn't decided who she needs to be in Indiana and North Carolina. Who to morph into to attempt to gain their votes. I would be interested in knowing what her previous supporters in states that have already had primaries think of her now with her 'when in Rome do as the Romans do' attitude. She said all the right things for the Hispanic vote in Texas and has since forgotten them. It is sad that she truly will do an say anything to get elected to include attempting to destroy her democratic opponent so that McCain looks untouchable and she has an opportunity to run in 2012. Pathetic!

    April 26, 2008 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  16. BL-NYC

    Why in the world would he turn this down???
    We the people want it... Amazing, if he is as goosd as he says this is a golden chance to discuss the issues important to the people...
    Says a lot about how much Senator Obama actually cares!!!

    April 26, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  17. Bill

    11 MILLION people watched last time.

    So there are only 13 shows that were watched more than the debate – SO now tell me no one wants to watch!

    What are you obamafanatics afraid of ???!!

    Here are the ratings from last week – these are 11-20

    11. (16) "Survivor: Micronesia," CBS, 12.01 million viewers.

    12. (58) "Biggest Loser 5," NBC, 11.39 million viewers.

    13. (20) "60 Minutes," CBS, 10.75 million viewers.

    14. (X) "ABC News: Democratic Presidential Debate," ABC, 10.69 million viewers.

    15. (15) "CSI: Miami," CBS, 10.63 million viewers.

    16. (28) "Hell's Kitchen," Fox, 10.56 million viewers.

    17. (9) "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 10.48 million viewers.

    18. (34) "Rules Of Engagement," CBS, 10.40 million viewers.

    19. (31) "Oprah's Big Give," ABC, 10.09 million viewers.

    20. (34) "Brothers and Sisters," ABC, 10.08 million viewers.

    April 26, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  18. M.S. Indiana

    Sounds to me she want Obama to be at a Clinton rally... No way she would be able to keep quit for 2 minutes at a time and limit her talk to 2 minutes....
    21 debates... think people already know what they wanna know.. no need for more excuses, just got the job done

    Lets do some campaigning instead, get to the issues, meet the people, rather then hide and make up stories about sniper fire and how she can lead from day one.... So what is your stand point on nafta in IN ???

    brush her off, return to your republican hole and be happy

    April 26, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  19. gail

    Go Obama Go, keep on keeping on, a chance for a change, we have to try, no one wants to continue what washington and the career politicians have been doing with our government.

    April 26, 2008 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  20. Jeff - Dallas

    Campaign strategy 101. If you are behind, offer your opponent to more debates. If he declines, then you can claim he is afraid, if he accepts, he may mis-speak and give you something to hold over him in the days before the election. Either way the under dog wins in the challenge for more debates.
    I think Obama's camp is correct. Twenty-one debates is MORE than enough. Meet the people, answer their questions in town hall meetings and local rallies. Stick to your game. Clinton is trying everything she can in the eleventh hour.

    Fifty year old college educated Texan for Obama.

    April 26, 2008 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  21. kathleen retired Professional w/woman for obama

    Why would anyone keep listening to her.? I don't get it.

    April 26, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  22. No wimps for President

    Finally, the perfect debate scenario... no moderators, just the candidates addressing the issues that voters want to know about in a nationally televised broadcast that will reach the most people. Yet Senator Obama is not accepting this opportunity. He would rather only play to an audience of his cheering supporters who overlook all his faults in the name of "hope". Otherwise, he would jump at the chance to present his views. What is he afraid of? Of course, he didn't want Florida and Michigan revotes either, preferring to silence those voters rather than take a chance and lose.

    April 26, 2008 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  23. Kay

    Why debate? It seems like she's employing a tactic that might back-fire on her. Remember the debate she had with Lazio during her bid for the NY senate seat? Lazio came across as a bully and lost because of his strong armed tactics. Interestingly enough, I think that she'd lose the debate because he'd run all over her.

    April 26, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  24. Jon, Los Angeles

    Obama should NOT accept any bait for her to just yell at him with the kitchen sink and gabbage disposal all at once. The woman is desperate.

    April 26, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  25. Ade

    I dont know why hillary is so despirate about having another debate, for GOD sake they have already 21,beat it woman, I guest she is just looking for another comment or I say words that Obama will say wrong again that she can pick on to put him down.Is time to talk about the main issues like the economic of the country instard of looking for debate and samething to work on with her partner McCain, she is more a Repurblican than a Democrat.Is like she has nothing to say than than my rival say this or that.

    April 26, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
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