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. Michael

    The first "45 minutes" of the last debate were nothing more than bickering back and forth before the candidates got to talk about the real issues.

    Hillary wants another forum to bring up gossip and issues that are petty and meaningless. Typical of her desperation to get more votes.

    Obama is absolutely correct by sticking to campaigning and focusing on the real issues.

    April 26, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  2. Tim

    I hope he Takes it. I like the idea of this format, and It gives him the bonus, if he is preceived to win, of taking her out for good.

    April 26, 2008 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  3. Larry Kitchen

    I think that now I could just about deliver Clinton's and Obama's lines in a "debate." Enough is enough. Clinton should drop out, leave the scene, flee! Obama will be the nominee. Let's not damage the Democratic Party any more than it is.

    April 26, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  4. Julie N., Naperville, IL

    Yahoo!!! Good job Barack!! No more free advertising for Billary! Do you think she would give you this if the shoes where on the other foot??? No Way! After May 6th, it isn't going to matter anymore!!

    Good luck in the upcoming primaries! Stand tall and keep your chin up...it's almost over...

    April 26, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  5. John IND

    Good idea, but that sounds like it would destory the part even more. She can bring up Rev Wright, he will talk about Penn.m She will bring Bitter and he will bring up Bosnia. I had enough get a canidate now or just put Mccain in office. Thanks

    April 26, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  6. Ilona Proud Canadian

    Can you really believe this? "no preset rules"? Does Hillary's strategists think that this makes a difference? Even when there are set rules, she has always wiggled around, jumped over, gone right through them as though they were never there, one way or another she just pretends that rules don't apply to her! Now she wants another "debacle" Yes that's exactly what I said, she does not want a debate, she wants to get on the networks in order to feed her hugely inflated ego! Sen. Obama please just talk to the "People" no more debacles!!!!

    April 26, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  7. v.ananthan


    A real fighter to fight for the country and it^s values...

    A real leader to treat every American with respect and dignity...

    A real strategist to solve the problems and balance the budget...

    -Hillary 08.

    April 26, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  8. Zac, OH

    Seriously? For real? NO MORE DEBATES!

    April 26, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  9. Sol

    She is broke! You have won – Barack, don't help her raise any more money for her "foolish" and "childish" prolongation of the primaries and waste of my time, she cannot win by the time the primaries end. If you debate her again, I will vote for "grand papa" Mccain

    April 26, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  10. Steve - Pennsylvania Voter

    I see absolutely no benefit to Obama to another debate of any kind. He's clearly the nominee so why should he? This is a desperation move on her part. I would also say that she would be taking a HUGE risk doing this as many voters have forgotten all of the Clinton scandals and Obama would be sure to bring up a number of them. If I were her, I'd just concede and get behind his nomination so that the Democratic Party has a chance in November.

    April 26, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  11. Monica, Texas

    Could this be becasue you really want to push another debate becasue you are broke????? Hmmmmmmm

    April 26, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  12. Steve in Minneapolis

    Not sure why CNN chooses never to post my comments. I try to be as accommodating to Senator Clinton as I can. But here goes yet another try.

    Obama is absolutely correct in rejecting Clinton's tactics. It is time for him to run his own campaign and quit falling for HRC's traps. The last campaign was totally worthless and obviously rigged.

    I am disapointed in my candidate that it has taken this long to call her on this and get back to his own "high road" approach.


    April 26, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  13. Bobby tray

    Just another opportunity for Senator Clinton to obscure the facts and have the media pundents jump on her side because the longer she is in it the more they have something to talk about which has nothing to do with the economy, the war and issues that are facing everyday Americans. They have met 21 times. Do you think another debate is going to change people's thoughts on the issues? In high school I used to do Lincoln/Douglas debates. That style is not going to help the already painful season. This is so shameful. . . .

    April 26, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  14. M. Gutz

    Bad decision, Obama.

    April 26, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  15. Brian

    Clinton's fundraising must be worse than they are letting on.

    Her campaign has a pattern each time they go broke:
    1) *Challenge* Obama to a debate for the free TV air time.
    2) Release a controversial commercial so the press gives the ad free TV air time.

    April 26, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  16. BJ

    Enough already. We know the debates by heart. Same stuff, over and over. Talk to the people that need help so badly.

    April 26, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  17. Democrat in Oregon

    So is Obama going to say, "no debates with John McCain – I've had 21 nationally televised debates in the last 15 months, and that's all I'm going to do." It seems that Barack simply cannot stand the heat in the kitchen, either that or he's deathly afraid of Hillary and her superior knowledge of the issues.

    April 26, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  18. bond

    There is nothing new to debate about. In the last debate, she was sticking in the dagger as much as she could. They never talked about any policies or issues that benefit us. It took 45 minutes of dirt and mud throwing,,, why should he agree for another debate like that. He is a gentleman,,,, he never brought any scandal of hers,,, and it's not like she doesn't have baggage,,, oh, she got plenty. Just google Clinton and you will be amazed.
    She just needs to quit and support Obama and the party.

    She is so desparate, pathetic.

    Sorry Jay and you other Clinton fanatics, the math just aint there. Sorry again. Better luck in 2016.

    April 26, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  19. Robert, RI

    Why is Hillary trying to get Obama into a debate so desperately?

    Because it's the only way she has a chance of attacking his person and cutting him down enough to lose votes.

    My fellow American citizens, please don't fall for this cheap trick .

    April 26, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  20. dana

    Just another gimmick. Are we now entering the realm of reality TV in the political arena? This is another example of the dumbing down of the profession of journalism. This stuff has gotten to be unbearable.

    Help us All!

    April 26, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  21. Venkatraman Subramanian

    Even if Senator Clinton had voted with Senator Obama against war in Iraq it would have made no difference and the war would definitely have taken place. Therefore, what is the point in repeating ad nauseum that Senator Obama was the only oracle who voted against it? There were Senators from Democractic party, including Senator Hillary, who believed their President's words, supported by Foreign Secretary at that time Gen. Collin Powel at every step. Of course, there is some sense in repeating the statement if that is the only point Senator Obama thinks he can score against Senator Clinton.

    April 26, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  22. tuff Col. Oh

    like the Obama camp said, they asked her to debate in N. C. and she turned him down, was she ducking him, I bet not, so she should stop implying that he's scared to debate her, he's going to be the democratic nominee and she should give up

    April 26, 2008 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  23. KAT - Rochester

    I Agree with Obama, enough debates, get out meet the people and focus on the issues.

    April 26, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  24. Mike d.

    Hillary, you're no lincoln. keep up your shrill whining for another debate so obama has more time to get the real message out to the voters.

    April 26, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  25. Sharon

    I agree with Barack Obama Campaign. I don't feel a debate is necessary prior to May 6th. Let each candidate campaign!!! I have no interest after the ABC debate and 45-60 minutes of "tit for tat." This was way too long for trivial issues against each candidate. Each issue raised had no real "juicy shell shocker" anyway. I already checked extensively. Please no more for awhile!!! Just my two cents worth.

    April 26, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
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