Lagging in Cash Race, Clinton Proposes More Debates

Money Not a Factor, Says Camp; Schedule Would Include Fox News

By Published on .

WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Predicting that Super Tuesday will prove "inconclusive" in the Democratic race, the Clinton campaign has offered to do four one-on-one debates with Sen. Barack Obama in coming days. One of the proposed debates will be hosted by Fox News Channel.

Democrats under pressure from liberal activists had declined to participate in past Fox News Channel debates, forcing two debates to be canceled. When activists complained that Fox's news coverage wasn't fair, they drew loud support from former Sen. John Edwards, who has since left the Democratic race. (Previously: Ailes Calls Edwards a Sellout After He Opts Out of Debate and Fox, Democrats Stuck on Stupid.)

It wasn't immediately certain if Mr. Obama will participate in any or all of the debates. An aide said the campaign is still examining Mr. Obama's post-Super Tuesday schedule, including debate possibilities.

The Clinton campaign's announcement today comes amidst financial reports showing the Obama campaign in January raised more than double the Clinton campaign, potentially making it easier for the Obama campaign to buy post-Super Tuesday ads. The Clinton campaign denied that funding was a factor in the decision and said "debates are a vital part of the process and provide a real-time contrast."

Howard Wolfson, communications director for Sen. Hillary Clinton, told reporters today that the campaign had approved the debates to give voters a chance to see the candidates "side by side." He said that while there had been a number of Democratic debates, only one had been one-on-one, the CNN-hosted meeting in California last week.

Mr. Wolfson said that since the candidates last year opted out of an Aug. 14 Nevada debate and a Sept. 23 debate to be hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and aired by Fox, both candidates had done long interviews on Fox News Channel.

"My understanding is that Sen. Obama has appeared on Fox more than once and we have appeared on Fox. It gives an opportunity for [voters] to see the candidates and it makes sense in terms of viewership."

The other debates the Clinton camp approved were: one this Sunday on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos; a Feb. 27 debate in Ohio sponsored by CNN and the Ohio Democratic Party; and a Feb. 28 debate in Houston sponsored by MSNBC and featuring Chris Matthews.