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. Ovitshio Branco from Holland

    Senator Clinton do you want to debate Senator Obama on those issues or another one
    Let's seethe HRC dirt fly:
    Caucus states don't matter.
    MI and FL don't count till she needs them.
    Sniper fire
    Elitist, that is my favorite btw
    Columbia Bill
    Columbia Mark Penn
    5 Million Dollars short
    Can't pay your campaign bills, (but can run a country?)
    Sinks, toilets, whatever! The very fact that you think the American people are too dumb to see through you makes you unelectable HRC.
    You and your husband consistantly say people don't matter, first caucus people, then young people, then two states full of people (of course you changed your mind on that didn't ya, I was here in Iowa when you said it BTW) Little states dont' matter. Then you tie/loose in Texas and of course super delegates don't matter, just electoral college.
    I am sick of you Hillary!! go debate Monica Lewinsky first

    April 26, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  2. kathy in ohio

    hes to afraid he put his foot in his mouth again............
    he doesnt think they play fair maybe he should just take his ball and go home...................


    April 26, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  3. Lance

    America answer these questions. when was our economy the best? When have we gained the most number of jobs in the past 10 years? When was our country the safest in the last 20 years?
    Each one of those answers is, when a Clinton was in the White House....

    Vote for Hillary for President 08 it is the only smart choice.

    April 26, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  4. j gannon

    Ohhh, yes, more questions about the figgin flag pin. I am sure there are many more idiots to film asking that crucial question. The world tuned into a debate over a pin, really pathetic!
    Only America is losing in these debates.

    April 26, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  5. 58 old white ladies for OBAMA








    April 26, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  6. Barbara in NC

    he he he he – and she says BILL likes to talk. I'm more interested in the one-on-one talks where REAL people can participate.

    Those debates are weighted, and quite boring. TWENTY-ONE is enough. I want my questions answered – my neighbors questions answered – my friends questions answered – WITH WITNESSES SO slick Willy can't deny 10 minutes later (or is it slick Hilly – get them mixed up).

    I couldn't care less at first between the two, but then I remembered the past – 8 to 16 years ago with all the scandals, women, cigars, lies, etc. Politicians are politicians – choose who YOU want.

    April 26, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  7. Independant in AL

    This is a bad sign for a contender to duck out. Its shows he is weak.

    It is obvious he can't handle the questions and I will not vote for someone who can't deal with simply answering of questions much less depend on him to handle the hard reponsibilities that a POTUS will face after all the mess the current President has got us into.

    April 26, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  8. Franky

    No offense, but Hillary better not go there.....I see what she's saying, and to come and think about it, she does in fact sound like Stephen Douglas....I don't care if they debate or not, I personally don't care but the fact she brought my boy Honest Abe up is in fact, blasphemous to me.

    April 26, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  9. Kentucky

    I'm sure it would be another dirty set up like the last one. She probably would have a hidden ear piece with Carl Rove giving her the questions.
    I suggest we have Debate with two Obama campaign staffers asking the questions to Hillary, you know like the last debate in reverse.

    April 26, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  10. colleen

    Thank goodness! We have had enough debates to know where each candidate stands. Interesting that Hillary NOW wants a debate when she couldn't be bothered to accept the earlier debate invitation.

    Maybe the American people can do a better job asking the THEIR OWN QUESTIONS directly to the candidate!!! After the last debate, it sure can't hurt.

    Go OBAMA '08

    Glendale Heights, IL

    April 26, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  11. Kelly From Oklahoma

    Again, Obama does not want to have to actually "State" what he believes in, because he does not have any real plans or stratagies, just a great slogan "Change we can believe in...." I say "Change to what?"

    Obama is just like a fad diet, there's nothing there.

    April 26, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  12. Carl Sloan

    Gees, if you thought the ABC moderators were bad, just imagine CLINTON asking the questions with absolutely nothing to lose–not even her dignity, which was thrown out the window months ago.

    April 26, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  13. Dilly WA

    Hillary turned down a NC debate before, now she wants to debate more. Will the real Hillary please stand up? Changing the game -again-and then blaming Obama for it. Hillary, stop fighting your own party. What a turn-coat. CLINTON / McCAIN 2012-we got it!

    April 26, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  14. Chris

    Get over it Clinton. You are out of money and start thinking about paying your vendors in Pennsylvania instead of trying to get free publicity.

    Quit Now Hillary. You know you are going to lose.

    April 26, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  15. jo

    I am so tired of this woman..I think that by now they have covered everything....what is there to debate about? In how many ways can you repeat the same thing. I hope voters put an end to all this next month so we can move on and concentrate on the elections in November.

    Obama 08

    April 26, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  16. Rusty Bedsprings

    Hillary just give up for the sake of the party and your husband's legacy.

    You will never be the President without support from the Democrat base: black voters.

    And you've lost that support forever!

    April 26, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  17. Tony, Mount Vernon, NY

    It says a lot when the woman calls the man out one-on-one and the "man" backs down. Hillary continues to prove her toughness. She wants to draw distinctions between herself and her opponent so Americans can make an informed decision. Go Hillary!

    Pretty speeches won't save Obama here. He's got to man up or exit stage left. He's made his choice and now the people of NC and IND will judge him for it. On May 6th we'll see what the verdict is.

    April 26, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  18. Morgan

    For the good of the party, don't debate any more. Get out and see voters face to face and don't feed the Republicans with more ammo.

    April 26, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  19. 'kay

    Wait, Hillary wants something that might generate more free air time? Get out!

    April 26, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  20. Ricardo Williams

    Sorry Hillary no more debates. Nobody wants to see your Joker smile from Batman and Robin. It is time to drop out of the race. Goodbye.

    April 26, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  21. H.H

    Why is another debate necessary? It is time to have this nomination process come to an end, and another heated debate would not help with that. Clinton is delusional and just wants Obama to play by her dirty rules. I'm glad he rejected it.

    Obama '08

    April 26, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  22. Voter

    What could we possibly need to know that has not came up in the last 20 debates???

    Oh ya Hillary is loosing and doing anything she can to take the whole party with her.

    April 26, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  23. anonymous

    "Oh, they asked me questions about my character. Oh, oh, it really hurt me in the primary. I am not doing it again. It will make me loose two more crucial states. I am so scared" 🙁 🙁 (nail biting).

    April 26, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  24. Sara Shamili

    Yes Obama, dob't play Hillary's game. She is a snake trying to deceive you to come into her trap. By now everyone in the U.S. and in fact in the world knows who the real Hillary is. She is a plain Republican in disguise. She is plyaying Karl Rove's politics. She does not have much money to spend on her dirty ads and therefor wants to have free time at a so called debate to insult and falsely accuse Obama and deceive people. Shame on her.

    April 26, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  25. proof

    This campaign has shown that more people are afraid of a powerful woman as president than they are of a black president- all rumors and myths to the contrary.

    All those people out there blindly voting for Obama are nothing but mysogynists.

    April 26, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
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