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. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    It said "True" on the CNN website – does Billary know what true truly is?

    April 26, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  2. Serge the DEM

    To: Observation

    You are not the only one. I totally agree... and yes... she scares me too.

    I think Obama could do so much more for us, and the world.

    I hope he gets his chance.

    April 26, 2008 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  3. PADem

    But Barack has no time to debate! All of his time must be devoted to playing basketball...er, I mean, talking to voters!

    April 26, 2008 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  4. Mom of aeven

    I am not sure Obama really wants the presidency and I am not sure he is qualified for the office. He certainly seems unwilling to answer questions that will give us insight into his character and his accomplishments. For example, I can accept that he never heard the publicized radical statements by his pastor over the last twenty years; however, what about the black liberation theology that was the foundation of the church? By sitting in that congregation, he supported the radicalness of that message–is that system of belief what we want our President to have?

    I am not a racist–I have the same kind of reservations about Obama that I had about George W. Bush–they are both men who are likeable and charming, but who do not have the understanding and wisdom to keep our country stable in a time of turbulence. Nor do either have the extreme work ethic that our presdient has to have in order to meet the real needs of our country.

    I guess I could be considered a Regan democrat. I will not vote for Obama, period. I do not want another "Bush experience."

    April 26, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |

    The frontrunner doesn't have to debate anybody. It's only,
    and always, the runner-up screaming for more debates.

    That's the way the game is played, and I'm glad Obama and
    Axelrod are sticking to the rules (and sticking it to her!).

    April 26, 2008 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  6. terri

    "Brush her off" must be one of the Clinton's uneducated voters...one who cannot read. Senator Clinton brushed off a debate and is now calling for one when her finances are low. I do not think that you know what Hillary Democrats, or millions of people will do. And, I do not think that your type of rants lend anything to the discourse. I am tired of hearing ignorant ramblings by supporters of all the candidates. Thank you.

    April 26, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  7. Mike, Toronto

    'Debating' means throwing mud at Obama, while protected by the Democratic 'never ever speak ill of the Clintons' internal rule. How much a better candidate must Obama be, if he's ahead in these primaries... I keep wondering whether those asking about the meaning of the term 'change' want actually to push him to break this rule; as long as he observes it , he'll be winning.

    April 26, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  8. one of a generation of steel workers

    How can a human debate a snake??. Hillary has shown her fear of this man by her need to resort to tears, lies ,distortion & hate mongering. Let the Democratic party move forward. Billary has exceeded the worst Republican in bad politicking. THIS will be her legacy !

    April 26, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  9. Gerry

    You have debated enough. Everyone knows the answers, What is up her sleeve. Tell me more about Bosnia I like to hear the truth.

    April 26, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  10. Ana in L.A.

    Obama knows very well that he is a weak debater and he doesn't want a repeat of the debate he mangled on the 17th before this next primary.

    Yeah. Real leadership, huh?

    April 26, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  11. Sharon

    He seems to have time to FINALLY go on FOX Sunday morning....after 700+ days of avoiding them....

    April 26, 2008 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  12. REP went DEM now IND

    The DEM party has changed my mind. They are campaigning for change but allowing money to make a choice for them. Obama's campaign and his supports call hillary names and her supporter names. THERE Is just one thing.....hmmmmmm...........you can't get to the whitehouse without her supporters. SHOULD be an easy win for McCAIN.

    April 26, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  13. united dems

    eli good point, excellent interview
    Wright Is Right-On Bill Moyers Last Night
    by: Paul Rosenberg
    Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 15:03

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

    Debate about what? Oh, you mean the comments your husband made about racial issues. No, you mean the sniper fire you were involved in. American already know that you'll say or do anything to get elected. No More DEBATES!

    April 26, 2008 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  15. White folks please coming from a white man

    The question why should Obama debate with you Hillary? The publice can see how desperate you are to try and make Obama look bad. The man is about to close the deal with a victory in Indiana and Northcarolina, and May 6th the race will be over. So why not play dirty, why not try to make Obama look scared.

    Game over Hillary.

    April 26, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  16. jimmy vekmen


    April 26, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  17. Obama for President

    It just dawned on me why Hillary wants a debate. She does not have enough money to campaign without help from the news media. A debate would give her free publicity. I'm so glad Obama turned her down. He's a true leader.

    April 26, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  18. Dodgy

    a debate?

    haha we all know Hilary can't manage her finances and the economy. She will lead us all into recession for sure. End of story.

    April 26, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  19. JDR

    What's your problem Jean, scared your candidate will look like an idiot?

    April 26, 2008 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  20. Spectacles

    Hillary is wasting her time, Americas time and more importantly MY TIME.
    She has nothing substantitive or intelligent to say. And I don't count "We will obliterate them" intelligent.

    April 26, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  21. Sam

    I am sorry, but Hillary continues to get more ridiculous as this goes on. There is no way she can pull off the nomination so I don't understand what she's doing.

    April 26, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  22. Ed

    Hillary wants a debate, but not like Lincoln, that debate wasn't televised. She's looking for FREE TV ADVERTISING. Because she is B R O K E!

    Dont do it Obama! Its another Clinton-ploy.

    21 debates is enough, she can't run a campaign without bankrupting it, but she says she can fix healthcare.

    I'm dubious.

    April 26, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  23. Troy, Seattle WA

    I'll be voting Clinton or McCain... no to Obambi

    April 26, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  24. No more debates

    What is there to debate about? They are almost similar on all issues and they have been saying each other same lines for the last 21 debates.

    When he asked for a debate in NC she refused, why he has to agree now?

    Somebody shut the evil one off.

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

    22nd debate??? really there were only 10 the entire primary last election cycle. The one thing the Clinton campaign is clearly better at is theatrics. Notice she makes some over the top statement or act the day before every vote. The latest ...obliterate Iran. Just wonder what she will say on May 5th?

    April 26, 2008 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16