Clinton campaign continues pressing for debates

In a letter, Clinton's campaign manager writes to her counterpart in the Obama campaign, calling for one debate a week for a month.

Published February 7, 2008 3:05PM (EST)

Hillary Clinton's campaign has been pushing hard since Wednesday morning for more debates between Clinton and Barack Obama. The Clinton campaign has already accepted five debate invitations, and has been calling for one debate per week over the next month. This could be a sign that the campaign believes its candidate won the first head-to-head debate between Clinton and Obama, as senior advisors implied in a conference call Wednesday; it could also be a reflection of the campaign's bowing to the reality of the upcoming primary and caucus schedule -- the contests between now and March 4 all favor Obama for demographic and logistical reasons.

In a press conference Wednesday, Obama seemed to dismiss the idea of weekly debates out of hand. "I don't think anybody's clamoring for more debates. We've had -- what? -- 18 debates so far," Obama said. "We will -- here's the good news. We will have more debates. We are still trying to sort through our schedule, because it's very important for me to spend time with voters ... And, you know, so what we have to do is to figure out -- to balance, how do we provide enough debates where people can continue to hone in on the differences between the candidates and at the same time not using up so much time preparing for debates where, you know, you've got one a week, or one every four days or something, where it burns up a lot of time that we could be on the ground, in town hall meetings, with voters ... I'm sure we will accept at least one."

That hasn't made the Clinton campaign happy, and it's continuing to put pressure on Obama to agree to more debates. Wednesday morning, campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle released a letter she wrote to David Plouffe, her counterpart in the Obama campaign. She congratulated Plouffe on Obama's victories during Super Tuesday, then wrote, "One of the things I've always appreciated about the Democratic Party is its willingness to engage the toughest issues facing our country, even if we don't always agree on how best to solve them.

"After seven years of a Bush administration that has left the economy struggling and our health care system in crisis, Americans are certainly facing their fair share of challenges and deserve to hear how the candidates for the nomination will address them.

"As such, I was disappointed to see that Senator Obama rejected the idea of having more debates given the fact that he and Senator Clinton have had only a single one-on-one debate. I think we can do better and so does Hillary.

"Senator Clinton believes voters should have more than one opportunity to see the candidates discuss the issues and has accepted five debates between now and March 4th from CNN, MSNBC, WJLA, ABC and Fox News.

"To that end, we hope Senator Obama will join Senator Clinton for a debate a week beginning this weekend. I'm sure we can find a suitable place to meet on the campaign trail. There's too much at stake and the issues facing the country are too grave to deny voters the opportunity to see the candidates up close.

"As Senator Obama has said, 'In an era when Americans are rightfully skeptical about the quality of our politics, let us set an example [they] can be proud of and give them the kind of campaign they deserve.' We couldn't agree more."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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