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. Tamara, Virginia

    Maybe she fails to realize that even though Douglas was a "tenacious" opponent against Lincoln, he lost!! Debating does not bring about the change that is needed in America. She needs to let it go...........

    April 26, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  2. Concerned in Maryland

    If Sen. Clinton want a debate, I invite her to stand in front of a mirror and debate herself until she is satisfied.

    April 26, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  3. PH in Oklahoma

    Come on Obama...what's the matter? Can't stand the heat? You say you want to spend the next few days talking directly to the people. Why can't you stand next to Hillary and talk directly to the people? Is it because this doesn't give you a chance to bash her? No you only do that behind her back. You have NOT won this primary election and you will NOT win this primary election because you are not the right person for the job. Hillary is the only candidate that can beat McCain in November.

    April 26, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  4. Hillary Sucks

    Hillbilly he said NO. Go scream at Bill and go away!

    April 26, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  5. Mimi in TX

    21 debates is enough! What else is their to talk about????

    All Hillary wants to do is sling mud and throw rocks. I'm glad that you are not acknowledging her because she isnt worth a second of your precious time.

    Keep campaigning and BLOW her out of the water in North Carolina and Indiana!

    Obama in 08!

    April 26, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  6. Susan MO

    Why debate Hillary ?

    She rudely insulted the people of the South, and we do not need a president who slams the American people. "Screw em" she said.

    This is a serious concern.

    Go Obama '08

    April 26, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  7. Matt

    Whats Obama scared off? Oh yeah he will lose thats why he dont want one. He is also going to lose the nomination because he cant attract the elderly,women and blue collar workers. Mrs Clinton will prevail due to the Clinton machine.


    April 26, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  8. TNA

    I agree....though I do think the format would be interesting....

    April 26, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  9. Midge from Ohio

    Obama gets too flustered when he doesn't have his pre-written speech. That is why is isn't good at debating.

    April 26, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  10. billary disappear already!

    what a manipulator, she is! she wants to drag Obama down. Obama supporters, if a unfortunate miracle happens and she ends up destroying Obama successfully, let's not vote for her! It's better to have an old grandpa as a president than a liar clinton dynasty.

    April 26, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  11. Amy

    Give it up already Hillary. We don't want another debate. You don't want a ref for the new debate approach you're offering is hilarious. The shots and low blows you have been slinging aren't enough for you? You have been uncensored and the media hasn't been a ref for you so I don't get it. As a woman, a Latina, and a grad student you are a poor example of everything.

    April 26, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  12. Tom Gannon

    Hillary Clinton stop hurting your party and your own legacy. Drop out with whatever grace you can muster there is now way you can legitimately win and if you do twist the rules to steal this nominations, Democrats like myself cannot and will not support you.

    April 26, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  13. Lenore Z.

    There have been plenty of debates already. We all know both sides and their positions. Clinton obviously just wants some free air time.

    April 26, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  14. Kim

    Well put it rest Hilary Clinton. You are looking just for a fight... fight. .fight. We have many senseless debates and you did not came out any cleaner...Boy you seem so desperate. Please put this to rest..had enough.

    April 26, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  15. Sharon Minnesota

    I sure would like to see a one on one with no moderator to bias either way. The other rule to enforce is that no one could say anything negative about the other person's credentials or personality only their plans on the issues. Just the facts Ma'am or Sir. I would have placed my bet on Hillary to win big on those terms.

    Unfortunately, even though Mr. Obama and his managers feel the previous debates were not substantive enough they are now refusing to correct that problem.

    The people of Indiana and North Carolina are deserving of a fresh new look at both candidates. So come on Mr. Obama get with it.

    April 26, 2008 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  16. DG_NJ

    It's called DESPEROSITY. Hilary Clinton is so pathetic. She know she behind and wants to have a Kama Kasi style debate to prove she is "tough". ENOUGH! you've guys had 21 debates. What in the heck else is there to debate about?

    Hilary needs to debating Bill and her top advisors as to why her campaign to explain why her campaign did a face plant and lost.

    And by the way she has already LOST the nomination. Who are we kidding here. The clock is just runnning out..tick...tock....tick..tock

    April 26, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  17. frank, las vegas

    CNN you've never published my comments, however I hope this one will be considered. Debating with Senator Clinton entails exposing the electorates to more disguised "mis-speaking" aimed at tarnishing the image of Senator Obama to her own advantage. I don't think she means well for Obama nor for the democrats and the electorates. I used to be a clinton supporter until I discovered that her negative attitude and mis-speakings appeal more to our emotions than to our higher senses. She is just undoing the democratic party. She has nothing new that is good to offer after 21 debates – she does not mean well to others but for her selfish interest!

    April 26, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  18. colorado

    be careful what you wish for hillary, you may just get it. if you
    call down the thunder, make sure you know how to harness it. just make sure you don't go calling 'unfair' if you get a whipping, and bring on the crocodile tears, and scream racism if he drop kicks you in to the next decade.

    April 26, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  19. Victor in NC

    I don't care how she "Sugar" up the deal,
    Obama is the front runner, and I would give her a wave good bye.

    Hillary go home and this time "Bake some Cookies"

    April 26, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  20. Nick - Arlington, VA

    ....someone is going to have to drag this women out of the room kicking and screaming and unfortunately she is trying to do her best to do the same to Barack in order to cripple him so she can run in 2012.

    April 26, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  21. Barbara in NC

    Oh – and calling people names won't change their mind. It's getting really dirty and that turns me off to the people that do it. Just my opinion – he he he he

    April 26, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  22. blinded

    I love this woman.

    She never complains about all the fixing and rigging and pro-Obama bias.

    She is willing to take him on- one on one- on the issues, and win the nomination on actual merit, rather than myth.

    Obama prefers the myth he is spinning, to actual accountability or real issues.

    Either way, we all know who the real winner is. She radiates it.

    April 26, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  23. Texans For Experience

    Sen. Obama doesn't want to debate because it is not scripted for him. The answers that he may be asked to give might not be rehersed enough. Hilliary wants to debate because she has answers and solutions to problems this country faces.

    Watch and see what excuses he gives and ask yourself, is this the guy I want running the country? Who has the experience to handle the hard decisions? Who is the best trained individual for the job? Who has the strongest resume?

    We don't need any more Presidents with no "on the job training." Say NO to Obama until he has a few more years in his political war chest.

    Clinton and Experience 08!

    April 26, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  24. baker

    one word: desperate, period.

    April 26, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  25. Tahoe Editor

    Citing "21 debates" is patently disingenuous. Events that occurred months ago with 9 suits standing on a stage speaking for 30 seconds at a time do nothing to help voters in remaining primaries make a choice between the two remaining candidates. Yes, BO is the marginal front-runner, but he has lost 3 of the last 4 contests. If he wants to demonstrate to both primary and general electorate voters that he is strong enough for this job, he should agree to a Lincoln-Douglas style debate with no video clips and no "gotcha" moderators. Hoping to coast from here on out is pretty pathetic.

    April 26, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
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