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. Bubba

    It must really piss off Hillary when she demands something and it is just brushed off by Oboma. Nominated or not, win or lose, she really thinks she is entitled to be Queen! She really needs to be isolated and studied by a brain team ! She has head problems...big time !

    April 26, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  2. susants

    Let Hillary pay for scoring the last-minute undecideds in her negative, fear/smear ads or challenge him to a basketball contest in IN.
    I would love to see her leaping in shorts on a basketball court.
    If she really wanted another debate, she should have accepted in NC where she is so far behind.
    Her threats to nuke Iran and her readiness to pull the trigger may not be enough in NC to close the deal.

    April 26, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  3. Seth

    All the HRC supporters will be on here claiming that Barack doesn't want to debate for reasons other than what his campaign has stated. But why? It doesn't make sense that enough is enough with 21 debates.

    That number is ridiculous already. What if HRC wanted 50 debates? 100?

    And, as pointed out, she declined a debate that Barack accepted. So whatever reasons you claim Barack doesn't want this debate, can be applied to HRC's declining, too.

    April 26, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  4. Go Indiana

    I love this man! He is all about a new way of doing politics. We don't need any more back and forth between these two. The only way she can win the nomination is if she keeps picking at him and hopes he makes a minor flub and then keep hitting him with it, damaging his electability. He will keep to the high road and he will win.

    If this situation was reversed, Barack would have been forced out of the race or he would have removed himself for the sake of the party. If he couldn't catch up with delegates, won only half as many states, was out of money, in debt and had people leaving his side for the opponent , well, he would be seen as selfish, destructive and self serving.

    I rest my case.

    April 26, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  5. Obama Supporter

    Hillary Republican Clinton stop crying so much. Its over just get out an go away. PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

    April 26, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  6. Fadi

    If he is afraid of debating a fellow Democrat, can you imagine Obama debating McCain or a president of another country (example: Iran, Syria, etc)?

    Democrats, please select him. He will gurantee us the White house!

    McCain-Powell 2008!

    April 26, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  7. Joe

    I am in favor of this style for all debates. I think that each speaker alternate every 5 minutes rather than 2 every minutes. I would hardly call this style Lincoln-Douglas considering those formats were 60/90/30 minute rotations. I do not think poeple today can pay attention that long.

    April 26, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  8. Tom

    Those who can do, those who can't, reject and make excuses out of fear.

    April 26, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  9. Micheal Thompson, Washington, DC

    He's spooked that people are second-guessing him. Period.

    April 26, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  10. Jack Robertson

    Obama is right to refuse another debate. His lying, 'misspeaking' prevaricator of an opponent doesn't deserve another public forum in which to spew her venomous litany of lies, half-truths, innuendo,
    fear-mongering and not so subtle appeals to the many not so closeted racists who support her.

    April 26, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  11. dsp, Santa Rosa, CA

    This is a losing proposition for Sen. Obama. If he accepts, then Sen. Clinton has nothing to lose and can sling any and all kinds of mud hoping some will stick.

    If voters are still undecided, then they are overly cautious and will stick with the "known" candidate.

    No more debates. Let's stop talking and start doing!

    April 26, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  12. For Obama

    Senator Clinton begging for a debate because she does not have the money to run ads. Debate will be free advertisement for her. That's common sense. She's not concerned about debating. She trying to advertise, that's the bottom line.

    April 26, 2008 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  13. Jett Johnson

    She wants to debate because she knows that SHE WILL WIN!

    In the years I've followed Senator Clinton, one thing has always been a constant, that is, her incredible debate skills. When debating her intelligence and drive as a human being shines through.


    April 26, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  14. Gaby

    HRC was asked to debate previously in NC, but she declined, probably because she was not sure how PA. primary would turn out.

    No more debates, enough already.

    Obama 08

    April 26, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  15. Jane

    Hillary Clinton wants "another debate" after 21 debates already. Uh huh. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    April 26, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  16. NoBama

    Obama hates debates because he is too slupid to think on his feet, preferring to read off of a prepared script that was probably written by someone else.

    This guys is a clown and you lemmings who follow him like he is some rock star need to put down your bongs and read.

    April 26, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  17. eli

    Why isn't the media talking about the Rev. Wright PBS interview????

    I think it's because the media nothing to talk about.

    It's because the media would HAVE TO APOLOGIZE.

    I haven't seen anyone in all major net works today talking about rev Wright's interview. Not Fox, not, CNN, no MSNBC, it's if it never happened. Isn't it odd?????

    PLease CNN, why can't you be fair and show the PBS interview in your chanel, or at least portray the man as he is. Give hims a chance to show who he really is.

    What a shame!!!!!

    April 26, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  18. Deema

    Why would anyone debate Hillary Clinton without a moderator? She's a long-winded woman and she'd monopolize the whole thing.

    April 26, 2008 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  19. Mary in Al

    Go away clinton. You need to prepare for your lawsuit in California. Senator Obama has already won and that's why you want a debate- to attack,not talk about the issues. WE want Senator Obama.
    Obama 08

    April 26, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  20. hugh

    Hillary Clinton is just trying desperately to damage Obama at all cost.She does not care about the party, only her own selfish agenda

    April 26, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  21. Proud American

    The only debate America needs to see is the one between Obama and McCain. Nuff said!!

    April 26, 2008 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  22. Ratgurl

    It's a last-ditch effort to try to sabotage Obama. She's all about herself, while Obama's thinking of America.

    So sad, Hill.

    April 26, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  23. Not Today Thanks

    She's broke and needs air time. That's the only reason she's harping on all these debates. Go. Away.

    April 26, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  24. Eugene Oregon

    Oh and by the way I do not drink kool-aid.

    April 26, 2008 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  25. Ace-Canada

    She's a good talker....talk on Billary....Obama, please carry on with meeting and talking one on one with real people who truly matter.

    April 26, 2008 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
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