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. enough dabate

    Dear Hillary,

    21 debates is enough go out and campaign. We are not going to fall for your trick again get over it

    April 26, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  2. Wandy Molars

    Too bad her name is Hillary it should have been hypocrite. Not too long ago when Mrs. Clinton was running for reelection for her senate seat in New York, she refused to debate her Republican opponent. She did not think it was informative for the voters then. I am amazed that she thinks debate is informative now. Could it be that she is out of money and wants free publicity.

    The woman cannot manage her own campaign and wants to manage the US economy. Only God will deliver us from evil.

    We the people do not want to hear any more of Hillary’s negative, and hateful gibberish.

    April 26, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  3. Nat Apir

    The Point has been made by the Obama campaign.

    Hill-Rod is free to join any debating club of her choice, where she can debate on all issue except of course her lack of Character and integrity.

    This however is a contest for the most powerful and demanding job in the world – THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND CEO OF THE WORLD.

    April 26, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  4. Jennifer

    Go Hillary!!!!

    April 26, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  5. Curt

    Agreed........they have debated "enough"!!!

    Hillary is looking for anything to help her out! Boring....move along.

    April 26, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  6. simply amazed

    Hillary doesn't want a one on one debate so the people can learn more about the candidates. Hillary tries so hard to push any day to day issue she can to try and twist something to her advantage. Her message changes so rapidly it is hard to keep up with her latest issue that only has a critical factor to her campaign strategy that constantly change.

    It sure seems to me that what started out to be such a promising campaign this year has turned into a "kitchen sink" primary.

    Is this what Hillary meant when she tearfully stated she "found" her voice?

    April 26, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  7. PonderOnIt

    Why would Barack need to debate Hillary (lie and make up her own rules) Clinton one more time? Will the public learn something new about their plans to run the country, or will we find out what
    Rev. Wright ate for breakfast lsst month. Will we learn more about
    our exit from Iraq, or will we find out the rising cost of flag lapel pins
    (better stock up...there seems to be a shortage, because I don't see
    many people wearing them – esp. the MSM pundits and the other
    presidential candidates). Will they reveal something new about their health care plans, or will learn that Barack is a poor bowler and
    possibly a poor hunter. Will we hear something about the mortgage
    crisis, or we will hear more about how people in the midwest,
    (regardless of what you might have heard) are not bitter about the economy...we're just happy church going, gun toting, whisky drinking folks who appreciates everything the current administration has done for us.
    I'm sure the MSM is unhappy about not having another debate which
    helps their ratings tremendously.
    However, for many of us...
    "Give us a break!"

    April 26, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  8. BGIV in NC

    How many times is she going to try to challenge him to the old "meet me behind the school house at 3". Please 21 debates and she just keeps getting uglier each time I see her.

    April 26, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  9. Pat

    Obama and company are not looking presidential at all by giving flimsly excuses about not debating. Debates are the American way to hear the candidates, and Obama & Clinton have only had 4 one-on-one debates. Get real, the public will not buy these flimsy excuses about a debate.

    April 26, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  10. kobs

    No more debates or fights as she preffers calling herself a fighter.
    We are looking for a leader of the democratic party to take us to victory in the general election and we start fixing the country and repair our international relations. No liars, no snipers from fighters , no thinly veiled.
    Non of that. Just repairing the damage done to our country and many communities which are hurting and divided.

    April 26, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  11. Jackson

    Let's face it ... he doesn't like to be questioned! ... I guess he wants to run a Bush presidency!!

    April 26, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  12. NY

    HRC says,"We’ll set whatever rules seem fair" Yea right! This coming from the person who keeps changing the rules! Maybe we should reflect on the Michigan and Florida rules that she agreed to..oops,now she is saying, she did not agree to it, nuff said!

    Obama 08

    April 26, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  13. James from Hawaii

    Thank God we have a grown person running for President that is able to turn away from petty challenges and choose his fights wisely. This is the kind of presidencial behavior I expect from a serious nominee.

    April 26, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  14. Patrick Coady

    Hillary Clinton is a master at debates and like any master debater she can do it by herself.

    April 26, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  15. NotThisTimeinNY

    If she'll talk about ducking felony charges - I say "go for it Obama"!!

    April 26, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  16. Obama for President

    No more Democratic Primary Debates! We�re giving McCain too much fodder. I�ve observed that good debaters are also really good salesmen and at times really good liars. I know a couple top debaters personally, and they will tell you that they can convince you that the sky is green. They�ve mastered the art of persuasion. Obama is a truthful, transparent person. When people say he�s weak in debates, they�re basically saying he�s the real deal. Hillary was on her high school debating team. She knows how to spin things. But when it comes to honesty and integrity, she has not been trained. I don�t even think that she believes that telling the truth can actually get you further ahead than telling lies. She is no longer a contender in this race.

    April 26, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  17. ChicoSez

    I thought debating WAS getting your message out before the voters? But Obama is afraid of debating Clinton. How will he be able to duck debating McCain? And when the polls say that 30% of Clinton's supporters will NOT ever vote for Obama, believe them. I cannot back any candidate who runs such a hatefilled campaign. And if you don't know what I mean, read the postings here. Just another pro Clinton post doomed to moderator oblivion.

    April 26, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  18. BDT

    Obama does not need a another debate,his leading she needs everything she can get and still will come up short.

    April 26, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  19. Elizabeth

    We do not need or want to see these two debate again. What was fervor on the Democratic side has turned to fatigue. I don't want a president who would dishonor aagreements or atttempt to change rules in a game only because she is losing. Our country has lost it's world standing in the last seven years and we have only one possibilty out of the three remaining candidates who can restore it.
    I am aghast at the loyalty to a woman who has outright lied several times, bolstered by a husband who outright lied to the American people and wagged his finger at us for not believing him.
    I support her right to stay in this race until every primary is over, although it is causing harm to the party. I pray that at that time, the candidate with the most delegates, most states won, who is ahead in the popular vote, is made our nominee. Or there wil be riots in the streets.

    April 26, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  20. john

    Enough debates! Let the candidates spend their time as they think best. Hillary just exposes her nastiness every time she debates.

    April 26, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  21. Obama 08

    Sen Clinton is always trying to be slick and attempt some underhanded, deceitful, grimmey, game playing political tactics. She is trying to destroy any chance Sen Obama has at beating McCain in the fall. She should just quit and accept her defeat.

    April 26, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  22. Patty

    What better way to speak to the candidates in this kind of fourm as Clinton suggested – no questionners but just the two of them -WOW. Now that is something I would watch no matter what. Is Obama afraid of tackling Clinton one on one? And if he is, theni s he ready for the tough job in the White House – I think not if he can't take on this challenge.

    April 26, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  23. daisybroad

    i am seriously starting to think hillary clinton is quite the kook. at the rate she is going, she'll still be campaigning in january. not to mention, i'm from a long line of dems. and i WILL vote republican before i vote for clinton!

    April 26, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  24. Susan / PA

    with her loud mouth..he would never get a word in edgewise....so NO...

    it is better to meet the voters up close and personal and answer voters questions....Not Clintons questions.

    April 26, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  25. Franky

    No offense guys, but I'm not letting this one ride at all. You know why?? She always talks about how she understands and how she listens to people and understands their needs. Well, you know what? Last time I checked, she's a Senator from New York, right? I don't even think I ever heard her mention her home state in this race as much and NOW she wants to compare herlsef to one of the most controversial times in American History??? No offense but last time I checked, the Senator from New York approved something that even Stephen Douglas approved that it is controversial. No offense to Hillary, but even she would humiliate my boy just like how Stephen Douglas did to my boy Honest Abe and his party(Republican). And how ironic is the other way around today???? At that time, it was the Republicans but now, is the Democrats.....as I always say,

    "What goes around, comes around."

    April 26, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
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