From CBS News' Allison O'Keefe:
Accusing Barack Obama of trying to "duck" a debate in North Carolina with Hillary Clinton, her state director in North Carolina ripped into Obama on a conference call with reporters today. "Obama wanted to brush off the people of North Carolina," said Ace Smith, referring to the video of Obama brushing off his shoulders yesterday when talking about Wednesday night's ABC News debate.
Smith took Obama's campaign slogans of "hope," "change," and "turn the page," and used them to illustrate why they believe Obama does not want to participate in a North Carolina debate. Obama is "hoping for no more tough questions, hoping for no more debates," according to Smith, and that he wants to "change the channel, change the topic," as well as wanting to "turn the page, because there is a scary picture."
Smith dismissed the notion that one of Obama's reasons for not agreeing to this debate is that he agreed to one in North Carolina on a different date. That is a bogus argument, Smith said, because the debate referenced by Obama was not sanctioned by the Democratic Party and was set for the first evening of Passover.
Gov. Mike Easley, D-N.C, is urging Obama to participate in the debate, and Smith says 20,000 people in North Carolina have already requested tickets. "This is important to the voters of North Carolina," said Smith. "I don't understand how you can run for President and not answer tough questions." The CBS News debate is scheduled for Sunday, April 27th, at 8:00 pm, in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Clinton campaign also announced today that she has accepted the invitation for two debates in Indiana, and said they hope Obama will accept as well. "I know Senator Obama was complaining throughout the day about the tough questions he got," said Howard Wolfson, a Clinton campaign spokesman. "It's obviously very easy to give an eloquent speech, but it's harder to stand in front of questioners and take tough questions, and that's part of the process too."
The Obama camp responded by turning the focus to campaigning, rather than debating. "There have been 21 Democratic debates and four one-on-one debates with Senator Clinton, all televised nationally," said Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman. "Our focus will be on meeting with voters in Indiana and hearing directly from them. We will make a decision about debates shortly."
Michelle Levi contributed to this report
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