Local Politics

One Debate On, Another Off in Raleigh

Posted April 21, 2008 2:51 p.m. EDT
Updated April 21, 2008 8:40 p.m. EDT

— The two leading Democratic candidates for governor will debate Tuesday evening on WRAL-TV. Details for the meeting between State Treasurer Richard Moore and Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue were still being formulated Monday afternoon.

A debate at the top of the ticket has fallen through, though. The proposed meeting in Raleigh between Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has been called off, state party officials said Monday.

Moore and Perdue had attended forums sponsored by different groups in recent months but haven't engaged in a head-to-head debate. Moore agreed weeks ago to take part in a one-hour debate broadcast by WRAL, but the campaigns couldn't agree on a location or format for a debate, and Perdue didn't commit to participating until Monday.

Clinton had agreed to a CBS-televised debate at the RBC Center, tentatively scheduled for Sunday. Obama, who had earlier committed to an April 19 debate, said repeatedly he wasn't sure whether he could fit next Sunday into his campaign schedule.

The North Carolina Democratic Party said in a statement Monday that the logistics of staging a national event on short notice, if Obama were to agree to the debate this week, were too daunting to try to pull everything together.

"Certainly, we're disappointed. We were looking forward to this chance for a debate here in North Carolina," said Jerry Meek, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party. "But we also know both campaigns are going to be in North Carolina on a regular basis between now and May 6."

David McLennan, a political science professor at Peace College, said he wasn't surprised the debate fell through.

"This is a reflection more of the Obama campaign feeling they don't have much to gain from a debate in North Carolina. (He has) a fairly substantial lead in the polls, (and) he got beat up in the last debate in Philadelphia," McLennan said.

Clinton and Obama have agreed to attend the state's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on May 2 in Raleigh.

The dinner will be four days before the May 6 primary, which is seen as critical in the tight race for the Democratic nomination.