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. JimM from TN

    Thanks CNN. You are truly something. I see you have removed my post about Jack Cafferty already. And closed the question out for any comments. This with only 6/7 comments in it.
    No curse or vile words anywhere.

    Tonight, when you go to bed, sleep some pleasant dreams thinking, I did my duty to CNN.
    But do not let any idea cross your minds that that you are doing your country wrong, Else you might have to wake up from a nightmare.

    Why cannot you just apologize for such arrogant behavior?

    Go figure.

    Grow up and do your job. Post the news fairly and justly. You and the rest of the mainstream media is one of the major reasons that the Democratic race is in such a mess.

    Go ahead and say, "CNN is the most trusted name in thr news."
    And everyone will soon say. RIGHT (ha ha)

    April 26, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  2. mark

    hillary wants to destroy obama again with her plot. not this time hillary,not this time. you know that you can't win why you want destroy the black man. that's the reason why the black will not vote for you. you are destroying a brother

    April 26, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  3. Suzie Applebee

    HILLARY, YOU ARE SO ANNOYING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GO AWAY!

    April 26, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  4. dave

    Why does Obama has to subsidue to Clinton's pressure. While ask for a debate in NC, she turned it down and now this.. something fishy is going on.

    April 26, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  5. Fazio

    relax "brush her off", you seem very tense in your blog there.

    Congratulations for being hodgepodge... now stop your ranting.

    April 26, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  6. Joyce in Florida

    Yes, he will and he has brushed her off. He knows he cannot win. He hasn't won a debate yet. Let Senator Obama keep running away from decisions. He is really good at that. How pathetic. Anyway, I hope Senator Clinton will win Indiana and make a very good showing in North Carolina so that SHE can be our nominee. We don't want anyone running this country who cannot stand up and take the heat. Time for Senator Obama to go home so that we can all move on and vote for Hillary Clinton this November. GO HILLARY 08!!!!!!!!!

    April 26, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  7. 59 year old White Woman

    For Pete's sake, Hillary, stop with the childish school girl antics.
    You had a lot of help in the last debate and you know it.

    I don't wish to watch anymore debates. I am voting for Obama and I don't need to hear your lies anymore.

    By the way, I am a fifty nine year old white woman and I will not vote for Hillary Clinton. I started off supporting Hillary but she is really getting on my nerves now.

    April 26, 2008 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  8. kai joe

    I think it is not a good idea from Hillary to have a one-one debate with Barack Obama. Hillary is too impudent and aggressive and doesn't have any principles. She is tricky and plays the old-fashioned old establishment games .She has learnt it there. Obama is a gentleman and don't need to be involved into a situation in which he would be forced to play the Hillary game. No thanks. Obama is in a different league.
    By the way, Hillary’s statement that Obama were scared of having debates and therefore he is not appropriate to face to McCain is absolute completely false. On the contrary, Obama can face to McCain more easily than Hillary. McCain is a gentleman too.

    April 26, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  9. Daniel

    How would brushing her off cause millions not to vote for him? Do you think that people want another debate? After there have been 21 already that were all nearly the same? While I think it'd be an interesting event, it's completely unnecessary at this point.

    and all those traits you attributed to Obama can also apply to Clinton. She has even a lot of other vices which would make her unelectable in a general election.

    Obama needs to focus on Mccain, not continue this political circus which Clinton has forced upon everybody.

    April 26, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  10. Are you kidding in Indiana?

    So she can get the debate questions like she did ahead of time from her husband, WHO GOT THEM FROM GEORGIE? YEAH! The media didn't bother to report that! Hmmmmmm!

    April 26, 2008 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  11. Mae

    Hillary is an expert liar; she can make a flat out lie look like the pure truth. Bill taught her well. Isn't it time Americans figured that out? A moderator-less debate would give Hillary the platform to throw lies at Barack and put him in the position of having to defend himself against those lies. Barack is too much of a gentlemen to nail Hillary, or at least he is trying to be. Hillary is disgusting and gets more so every day.

    April 26, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  12. Joseph

    I hope she's comparing Obama to Lincoln, because she sure as heck is no Abe Lincoln!!

    April 26, 2008 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  13. rich

    Obama already told her to get lost...so get lost Hillary. 21 is enough!

    April 26, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  14. Kusa

    If I have to watch another debate, remind me to bring my burf pocket to sit next to me. After the ABC disaster, I am done with debates!!! I don't to hear another why I did this and why I did that!!!!

    April 26, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  15. mj

    Why would anyone want to listen to another debate? And let's not forget that Obama had agreed to a debate in N. Carolina that Hillary hadn't responded to and then the date got changed. Let's look at the issues and quit all the juvenile name calling!

    April 26, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  16. Michael

    There is nothing new to debate. What has changed for either candidate's position on the topics that matter over the past few months? Nothing. I'm sorry, but no matter who you support, there is absolutely no need to watch a 22nd debate in the primaries. Let them both go out and connect with the voters in the relevant states and finish this thing whatever way it finishes.

    April 26, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  17. DS in CA

    21 is more than enough. The LAST thing this campaign needs is another fruitless debate. Anyone with half a brain already knows the differences between these two candidates. Speaking directly to voters is what Obama needs to do before May 6th. Don't waste your time, Barack. What a desperate ploy by a pathetic candidiate.

    April 26, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  18. escargot

    It would be nice to have proper Lincoln-Douglas style debates. The structured and unmoderated format (including the cross-examination portion) would put pressure on the candidates to give more thorough and thought-out answers instead of just soundbites.

    April 26, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  19. A Voter

    If it acts like a chicken and talks like a chicken....

    it probably says "barack, barack, barack".... just like a chicken...

    April 26, 2008 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  20. PulSamsara

    Hillary Clinton should have a debate with herself as to why she chooses to put her ego before the needs of the American people.

    I voted Clinton into her senate seat.

    I will NEVER vote for her again as long as I live.


    April 26, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  21. politicojunk

    No debates. We've had enough Hillary.

    April 26, 2008 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  22. NANCY

    You have had ALL the free (HOT) air time you deserve. Raise your own funds now.

    April 26, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  23. Amy OFlaherty Reno, NV

    Hillary is nothing short of a playground bully. I wish Obama would debate her again, though. I believe he will really shine in a Lincoln-Douglas style debate. Do it Barack!!!!!

    April 26, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  24. Jojo

    Have people noticed that on week days, there are many pro-Hillary and anti-Obama comments on CCN forums. But on weekends, most of comments are supporting Obama. Maybe the Hillary's campaign workers are taking their weekends off ? Just a thought.

    April 26, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  25. Ike...

    CNN please show Rev. Wrights interview with PBS........

    April 26, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
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