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Obama Will Skip Debates. Will Anyone Else?

DES MOINES -- Now that Sen. Barack Obama has become the first Democratic presidential candidate to declare enough is enough with the seemingly endless season of debates, who will join him?

The top-tier Democratic candidates are known to agree with Obama's view. In an earlier event, former senator John Edwards (N.C.) was caught on an open microphone complaining to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) about the size and frequency of the debates, and Clinton agreed.

But the Clinton campaign declined comment today on whether she would join Obama on the sidelines. So did every other Democratic campaign -- a reflection of candidates' desire to avoid angering the interest groups that sponsor various forums.

Debates are "grueling and time-consuming," acknowledged Pahl Shipley, a spokesman for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, "but debates and forums are an important part of the process. There are serious differences among the candidates. Voters deserve the chance to learn what those differences are to see where the candidates stand. Whether this is a sound decision by Senator Obama is for the people to decide."

Obama has already attended seven debates and 19 forums, including a just-finished run of three forums in six days, campaign manager David Plouffe wrote on Obama's Web site. So after Sunday's nationally televised debate on ABC, he will stick to only the five official debates, two Iowa panels and a Spanish-language event, Plouffe wrote.

Like a newly sworn dieter, though, Obama had to face the temptation of maybe just one more.

"If Senator Obama wants to limit his appearances, we hope he would still join Senator Biden in pushing the networks to sponsor a ninety-minute debate on Iraq," said Larry Rasky, communications director for Sen. Joseph Biden (Del.), who has lobbied for such an all-Iraq forum.

Another option, offered by the cable network MSNBC, has been to hold smaller debates with only three or so candidates at a time, so that each gets time to deliver fuller answers. Only a handful of the candidates have agreed to that structure.

The prospect of fewer debates makes Sunday's, moderated by George Stephanopoulos in Des Moines, that much more important to the campaigns. It also comes at a time when the candidates are all ratcheting up their focus on Iowa heading into Labor Day.

Stephanopoulos said today that he hopes his questions will encourage interaction between the candidates, where they "really mix it up and engage," rather than the standard, one-at-a-time format.

--Anne E. Kornblut

By Post Editor  |  August 18, 2007; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Barack Obama , The Debates  
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Next: New Biden Ad Pushes His Iraq Plan


Interesting comments posted - sounds like the debates are generally not considered to be very useful to the voters - mostly to TV pundits who like to tell us what the candidates are "really" saying! I would much rather listen to a more detailed discussion of the critical issues, and of course the top tier are going to be considered the winners in the debates we've had because they are the ones that get the opportunity to speak mostly - Biden and Richardson don't get much of a chance. The media has a lot of responsibility in picking out the winners -
I would personally like to hear whAT Biden has to say - he is expert at foreign policy
and isn't as programmed as some of the others - Hillary, for instance!

Pat in Idaho

Posted by: pbboice | August 22, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Well, the debates do not allow for much but sound bites. What can that tell you about the candidate. They only play into gotcha politics. I think there should be fewer debates, and they should be more substantial. What about other formats that allow for deeper insights? We need conversations with candidates, not political games. Who is tired of the political game? I am.

Posted by: goldie2 | August 22, 2007 2:25 AM | Report abuse

I do not know if it is wise or not to skip the debates but I applaud Senator Obama for not just following the status quo. This is the kind of person that I will vote for. He is not afraid to take the initative.

Posted by: shamiyahpr | August 21, 2007 2:49 AM | Report abuse

If Sen. Obama can not put up with the likes of former Sen.Gravel or Congressman K. how the heck will he be able to compete against the rough and tough winner of the Republican nominee? This should be a wake up call to all Dems that really hunger fo rthe return of our White House. In my humble opinion, John Edwards is the only man that can get us across the goal line next November and I bet the farm you will not see him sidelined in any debate, with in or outside of the Democratic Party! Victory in 2008/ John Ewdards for President. For me and my house we have four votes ready and waiting for the January SC Dem Primary and we will be glad to host a debate here anytime prior to voting and Mr. Obama and ALL the candidates are welcome to attend!

Posted by: southerndemocrat | August 20, 2007 8:51 PM | Report abuse

As opposed to specific topic debates, I would much rather see smaller group debates. Let's be honest, the big 3 are going to be difficult to get past. I don't think the other candidates are different enough to disguish themselves from the pack. Accordingly, wouldn't a debate between Obama, Edwards, Clinton be the most beneficial. With a smaller group, they might be forced to expound on actual positions, instead of getting cut off everytime we get close to a specific point. Do the same thing with Dodd, Richardson, and Biden, and keep the crazies like Gravel to the middle of the night. I know they are good comedic value, but it really makes the party look stupid. They should be a segment on Leno.

Posted by: jslotterback | August 20, 2007 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Thass good, Obama. Maybe the rest of your tiresome wannabe's will stop, too. --- For fear of boring us all to death.

Posted by: sameolddoc | August 20, 2007 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama is the strongest candidate because the other candidates agree with his position but are too afraid to publicly declare it. If there were 90- minute debates about specific issues, that would be better. It would allow more focus on particular issues and allow the voters to know how every candidate stands exactly on each issue, rather than a brief description that doesn't clearly profess the true positions of the candidates in "30 seconds or less" at a time. Discussions are better, and Obama is right. We need to involve the PEOPLE more! This is a democracy.

Posted by: BballShot90 | August 20, 2007 1:01 PM | Report abuse

These debates are a joke. I thought the You Tube debate was going to be something different but it was more of the same. . . . screened questions with scripted answers. Wouldn't it be refreshing if there was actual debating in these debates. Let them go after one another and argue their stances. The cream will rise to the top.

Posted by: dsansone | August 20, 2007 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I hope all of the people praising Obama for skipping future debates will praise Romney for doing the same thing if he skips the YouTube debate in November. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

I'm sick of the superficiality of these "debates" the media keeps foisting on us. Have a one topic discussion and let each candidate fully flesh out their plans for the future as opposed to 90 second sound bites.

Posted by: DCWill | August 20, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I applaud Obama's opt out on the debates. If someone wants to really know what he believes, try reading "The Audacity of Hope " and "Dreams from my father." Doing that gives one insight into his philosophy and a chance to consider it, without listening to the next zinger an opponent will be coming up with next----such as Hilary saying his thoughts on not nuking Iran were naive. It might yet come down to that "nuking Iran" but that should be sober decision making, not words in a heated debate. Don Berghuis

Posted by: dl.berghuis13 | August 20, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

'Lots of strong opinions out there.... stronger and more concisely put than what the candidates are saying, but then, bloggers have a bit less to lose than the candidates do.
It makes sense to pare back the suffocating schedule of debates, or viewer/voter fatigue will definitely set in (if it has not already) ....and then nobody will be listening other than some of those in the hall hosting the event.
I agree that I'd like to see a series of lively debates on a few single immigration, Iraq, Iran, health care, housing, etc...where the candidates can fully explore the topic, and get away from the slickly rehersed sound bites and photo-op moments...they all try too hard to "one-up" each other in the debates that are all over the place with varied and sundry topics.
Obama is correct to step up and step back from the debate-a-day schedule...I am not an Obama supporter, but I find myself in agreement with the action he has taken in this instance, even though it may well be the first time I have agreed with him. It's far too early for the candidates to allow themselves to be so overexposed...they're just becoming easier targets for the other guys...

Posted by: rhewitt | August 20, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Obama! I'm happy to see the candidate I'm backing is smart at campaigning also. Debate after debate is not helping. These candidates have to realize that we live in a pop culture society and like anything in pop culture, if people begin to see you and hear you too much we begin to get sick of you. Good Job Obama camp! This is the type of leader we need for our country now, one that can step out first and set an example for people.

Posted by: mhumphrey55 | August 20, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Obama is showing his intelligence by not participating in all the endless debates which the media always declare Hillary the winner. I have watched several of them and I fail to see where she has said anything that would prove to me that she could lead anything. Wonder who she will attack in the next one without Obama to pounce on(and yes, she is always the one who initiates the attack, then the media accuse him of attacking her "poor Hil"). Go Obama, you show character and deserve the support of the public and it's time for a new direction!!!

Posted by: concerned7 | August 20, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

The last "debate," refereed by George Stephanopoulos, typified the process: don't worry about getting anything substantive into the discussion, just do whatever it takes to get the candidates to say something rotten about each other. I'm sorry for the whole process. Good for you, Senator Obama. Stick to your guns.

Posted by: jnsmart | August 20, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Pundits and the media always think Hillary "wins" the debates- cuz she doesn't ever say anything of substance. It's easy to perform flawlessly -repeating the same perfected soundbites- if you don't actually say anything. How about going out on a limb sometime, Hillary, show some insight, and show some leadership- or are you too busy- still trying to get that anti-flag burning bill passed?

Posted by: julieds | August 20, 2007 1:36 AM | Report abuse
After every debate, no matter what happens, the media declares Hillary the winner. She has done well from time to time, but she's usually very stiff and comes off awkward. Oh, and she's usually not the winner.

Posted by: davidgriffen | August 20, 2007 12:54 AM | Report abuse


he is still doing the ones scheduled by the DNC and 3 others!

people read the full report and NOT JUST THE HEADLINE

Posted by: SeanFoots | August 19, 2007 12:25 PM | Report abuse

President Obama knocked it out of the park this morning! Good way to go out on top.

And everybody knows Hillary on the ticket spells doom for Democrats running for the House and Senate. No one gets Republicans to the polls like Hillary does.

Posted by: boomdog | August 19, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I said at the "beginning" of this campaign that it was starting, at least, six months too early. It was inevitable that, when candidates are making speech after speech, in the same states, more than a year before anyone votes for anything, some candidate would say ENOUGH!

Why pay attention to what Candidate X is saying in March 2007 when he'll be saying the same things in April 2007 and May 2007 and June 2007, all the way up until the time that a vote is cast.

Hopefully, for the next presidential election, the "schedule" won't start until Labor Day 2011.

Posted by: p_chuck | August 19, 2007 12:43 AM | Report abuse

mortified469 I realize from your comment that this type of reasoning is above your head, however, exactly what is it about this that you do not understand. Is it that Barack is a leader and visionary. Is that one word proof of your limited vocabulary and brain. Get a grip. Better yet for sure there is someone in your circle that can explain to you what is going on so you can give a more informed comment. Go and comment on th Michael Vick case, oh that is where you thought you were right. They talking about animals in those blogs and articles. You know chickens, dogs, cats. Not people running for president.

Posted by: dee1126 | August 18, 2007 11:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm tired of every debate being a series of appetizers on all possible topics. I'm ready for a series of main course, one-topic dabates. Let's get into some serious discussions instead of a few soundbites and cheap applause lines. The novelty's worn off.

Posted by: TomJx | August 18, 2007 11:36 PM | Report abuse

"the Clinton campaign declined comment today on whether she would join Obama on the sidelines."

Perhaps once they've had time to poll on the issue she'll have an answer.

Posted by: bsimon | August 18, 2007 11:13 PM | Report abuse

As someone who is vitally concerned about the quality of our next President, I am delighted that Senator Obama has stated the obvious that there are too many debates. Dozens of debates that are analyzed endlessly by talking heads is not useful in evaluating a candidate. I particularly appreciate the lengthy segments with candidates in live campaign situations that C-Span provides. I regularly review information on each of the candidates web sites in order to fully understand their views and policy statements. Their web sites show endless information about who they really are. It's fascinating to watch them.

Posted by: SFT1 | August 18, 2007 11:00 PM | Report abuse

This comes as no suprise. Obama has about played out his media creation and folks that are serious about a dem taking the WH in 08 know Hillary has the best chance. I saw on another Blog essentially the same as my comment. Dems lets get serious and back a winner, Hillary.

Posted by: lylepink | August 18, 2007 10:39 PM | Report abuse

It is time that a serious candidate blew the whistle on this ridiculous early campaign. We voters do not need for our candidates to be exhausted all of the time. Hopefully Obama and his rivals will be fresher because of his decision, and we will get serious statements and not just flubs from fatigue at future face-to-face events.

Posted by: cwh2 | August 18, 2007 10:19 PM | Report abuse

But who will Hillary pander to now?

Posted by: boomdog | August 18, 2007 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Obama was the first to figure it out. Familiarity breeds contempt. There is nothing to be gained from endless debates where the Democrats attack each other, even as the Republicans attack them also.

In fact, it is stupid. I am happy to see at least one Democrat has the sense to see what is going on. The debates are playing into the hands of the Republicans and the mainstream media. Democrats need to be smarter.

They need to pick and choose where they want to debate and what subjects they wish to debate. Debate for debate sake does nothing to help the Democrats cause or the country's cause. Enough self destruction.

Posted by: kralford | August 18, 2007 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Fred Thompson is planning on jumping into the race in September, but has yet to be involved in a single debate, and not a single word of criticism in the media. But when Obama talks of skipping a debate, bricks come down on him. Is that hypocritical or what?

Posted by: morningglory51 | August 18, 2007 9:01 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: mortified469 | August 18, 2007 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Let's be real. These gatherings foisted on the American public and the candidates by the media and special interest groups are hardly real debates about real issues. Forcing a dozen candidates to answer questions on a more than a dozen different topics does nothing to educate voters about the candidates and the issues. All it produces is a sporting-style event where candidates vie to toss the sharpest barb, the wittiest one liner or the best sound bite. Obama deserves praised for walking away from such a farce. If we want real airing of the issues lets dust off the Lincoln - Douglas debates as an example of what we should be shooting for.

Posted by: wappinne | August 18, 2007 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Nobody knows the issues better than the candidates themselves. If Obama won't debate opponents in his own party, how will he have the guts to debate leaders from other parts of the world?

Posted by: robinfickerofrobinrealty | August 18, 2007 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Obama's reasons for skipping debates is...well...I'll just share:

"...Unfortunately, we simply cannot run the kind of campaign we want and need to, engaging with voters in the early states and February 5 states, if our schedule is dictated by dozens of forums and debates. Ultimately, the one group left out of the current schedule is the voters and they are the ones who ask the toughest questions and most deserve to have those questions answered face to face..."

You know...if there were more YouTube-style debates I think this would help engage folks more in the process...and remove a rather weak excuse for candidates to avoid them.

Posted by: grannyhelen | August 18, 2007 5:36 PM | Report abuse

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