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. fred

    The reason Hillary Clinton wants debates is clear. Her campaign is in the red and she can't afford any television spots. They have been about equal so far in debates, but Obama can outspend her by a wide margin in the next month. I would like to see Hillary concede and endorse Obama. It is clear he will win more delegates, and it would strengthen the party as a whole to defeat McCain in the fall. I urge all democrats to come together on this, because we cannot afford to let superdelegates give the nomination to the candidate that didn't win it.

    April 26, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  2. kathleen retired Professional w/woman for obama

    Just think. if Hillary becomes President, Bill won't have to walk too
    far to talk to the lobbyists to give him pocket change. When a couple
    receives 5 Million Dollars from Dubai and $800,000 and rising from
    Columbia, you can bet on that trend continuing if they make it to the
    White House. For Hillary, it would be a conflict of interest, but for
    Bill, the RULES will be off the table. It wouldn't even be illegal for
    him, possibly unethical, with selling our jobs down the river, and
    the money will go directly to Bill. What a great "team" with many upcoming Millions. We will have Port Dubai, Port China, Port Mexico,
    Port Columbia and they can use Penn as a negotiater.
    Hillary Clinton President will be another "wort decision ever" for the
    American People. I don't believe her "promises." She can't deliver
    if she is friends with all the Republicans. People that know "the
    Clintons well" have turned away. They had to.

    April 26, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  3. PT

    Obama doesn't want to debate because he loses. He would rather spin with no one to challenge him, because he has no substance. People should think long and hard before we put another novice in to lower our country in the eyes of the world by the lack of prudent decisions. We will rue the day if we vote for race and charisma-–that's not enough when we are deciding whether or not to bomb Iran!

    April 26, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  4. Robin Benson

    NO more debates! NO more debates! I agree with Barack Obama, the last debate was a complete joke. Most of which I believe Hillary Clinton a hand in. I would not trust debating Hillary Clinton again no more than I can throw her. Agreeing to a debate with Hillary Clinton is like "Lucy on Charlie Brown where he runs to kick the football, and she lifts it up and he falls on his back'. I don't Barack, I wouldn't trust her either. Besides, he's already ahead, so why rock the boat.

    April 26, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  5. No Obama

    Hillary is thebest.

    Find that out now, or learn in Nov.

    Obama will lose the election and kill the democratic party.

    One lifelong democrat will split for every newbie brought in. Remember the lifelongs vote in EVERY election.

    The newbies were too selfish, too lazy or too indifferent to ever vote before. They may never vote again... because they will only vote for American idol- not solid candidates with mastery of the issues.

    April 26, 2008 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  6. lexel

    I think this is one of the Hillary's political machine strategy.

    **Hillary has an established name and pretty much well known. Obama is an unknown quantity and people know little about him. However, voters tend to warm towards Obama once they get to know him and understand his political views. Pressuring him to more debates cuts back on his "quality time" with the voters. Moreover, the undecided ones tends to go for the familiar person at the very last minute. I think it was a very good move for him. Besides, I don't want to waste nearly an hour of my time watching a so-called "debate" that talks about trivial stuff. And when I am already half on my dream, that's the time they will talk about economy and gas prices. Pretty pathetic.

    April 26, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  7. shey

    And that.........my dear......is that.
    Guess she'll have to find another way to get free publicity. And for the viewers who are disappointed ........maybe there'll be a good rerun of mud wrestling for you to watch.

    There's been enough debates to know where each stands. ( and there's their websites if you missed one ) She wants yet another excuse to throw mud......have a few more gotcha moments....all of which does nothing to fix our problems in this country.

    April 26, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  8. Gaby

    No Hillary, "not this time. You can challenge all you want, "but not this time, not now, this is his moment," get over it.!!!!

    Obama 08

    April 26, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  9. Luke

    I would love to see this debate.
    The true nominee will come out.
    Hillary will finally show how she is the best.

    April 26, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  10. NC Girl

    Hillary is desperate... She does not have enough money to go through the campaign so she needs as much free camera time as she can get. She is talking about her being tough and Obama not but what do you think America would say if he really came out swinging on her... They would say that he is beating up on a poor little woman. And he would be called an angry black man. He knows that they should not be beating up on each other because the party has to unite. She is saying forget the party... If I can't have it no one will. She can live with four more years of a republican president, they made $109 million dollars so when she goes to the pump or the grocery store it is not big deal... oh she probably does not pump her own gas or buy her own grocery so she doesn't have a clue what it is like.

    April 26, 2008 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  11. Al

    Wow Hillary is truly getting desperate, she's exhibiting some truly good qualities of someone who wants to be president. I'm putting money that's she's gonna install some last-minute "commentators" if such a debate were to occur.

    April 26, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  12. Judith Barton

    It is a half-truth to say Obama debated Clinton 21 times. Seventeen of those times included the other Democratic candidates as well. Obama has gone one-on-one only four times.
    As President. he would be facing tougher adversaries who unlike Clinton, care nothing for the well-being of America and its People.
    Please let it be known Voters want and need to make a comparison. We need to hear SPECIFICS on the issues. What-How-When amd more...
    Judith B.
    Bainbridge Island, WA

    April 26, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  13. EmeraldFalcon

    Enough with the debates already! We know each others soundbytes like we know our own names. Why did she turn down the NC scheduled debate and now wants to resurrect another? Hillary, we don't get you. Your are a formidable candidate, however, you thought the nomination was your right by default, and now that you see that riding Bill's coat-tail didn't work (after Iowa) you've sought to do nothing but damage the Democratic Party.

    Whether folk believe it or not, you've turned into a Karl Rove Republicrat.

    April 26, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  14. David

    This type might be a very good debate or very bad. It would be fun to see which way it goes.

    April 26, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  15. fred

    Notice how he always turn it around and blames the other person. He is a total Idiot!!

    April 26, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  16. JC

    Hillary just wants her name out there more. Everyone already knows where each of the candidates stands on issues. This is just a publicity gimmick by Clinton.

    April 26, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  17. Daniel


    You just want more free airtime.

    Please hush.

    April 26, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  18. North Carolina

    Maybe he could debate Alice Palmer, too! She's just come on board to support Hillary.

    April 26, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  19. Young Voter

    Hillbilly is shameless and I could see her lying all thru the debate if it were to happen. That's right Obama, don't waist anymore time on her and focus on the voters! Stay true to the course, you will prevail!

    April 26, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  20. e forrest

    obama dosnt need to debate with clinton, she just wants to score points,obama is too wise for her tricks,it would just be free advertising for clinton, with her smart HA! HA ! comments, maybe the $10 million donations came from the website not authorised by the obama campaign, the police are pretty smart,they will find out where the money went, unless special interests stop them, a lot is coming out about the clintons, although hillary says all her baggage is known, there is heaps more to know , the longer she carries on the more likely it will surface, she should concede graciously now ,before she loses all credibility, this campaign has shown her in a bad light, , shame on her .

    April 26, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  21. Ray

    Wow..he is really afraid to debate Clinton. He has pulled out all the excuses and they have been shot down. Now he says, He would rather spend his time more wisely. Wow wow wow.

    April 26, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  22. John, NC

    Okay Hillary this is getting old. The American people are tired of these debates, we have had enough. We need to wrap this thing up and move on to the general election, quit trying to buy time and publicity, the ship has sailed and you have clearly missed it

    April 26, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  23. Coleman R. Brice, Asbury Park, NJ


    April 26, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  24. Ivey League

    NO money. Therefore, I want FREE publicity.

    How about a debate about paying your "small business vendors" and providing healthcare to your "own campaign employees."

    This lady is senseless. Minimize my weaknesses. Maximize my strengths...on someone else's dime.

    April 26, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  25. Bianca

    This is REAL simple! The debates that have been held are all free air time for Sen. Clinton. Her funds are very low this is the reason she always challenges Sen Obama to debates. Also this is the reason she always holds town meeting or forums. Its free TV time. Its about time he realized that she has been using this as free air time. Sen. Obama don't give her what she asks. Make her pay to have her voice heard! Hillary we are tired of the games!!!!!!! No more!!1

    April 26, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
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