Risking the ire of progressive activists, Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign announced that it has accepted a debate to air on Fox News on February 11, according to her chief strategist Mark Penn.
"There is an enormous interest in these debates an clamoring on the part of the Democratic Party for them," said Clinton's spokesperson Howard Wolfson. "We have not had a large number in which two people have participated. We've had multi-candidate debates... the fact is Senator Clinton has enjoyed the opportunity to debate and get her message out. Certainly as we move to the next exciting day of this nomination calendar, voters want the opportunity to see these two candidates compete against each other."
Though Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama have frequently appeared on Fox News for interviews, Clinton may be debating alone. Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama, said that no plans existed as of now for his boss to participate in upcoming forums.
"As of right now, there are no debates on our schedule at all," Burton told the Huffington Post. "We'll figure out our schedule, including any debates, soon."
When the Democratic candidates declined to participate in a FOX-sponsored debate last April, their choice was readily greeted by Democratic bloggers and party activists, who did not wish to legitimize the station as a neutral political forum. Officials at Fox News were apoplectic.
"The candidates that can't face Fox, can't face Al Qaeda," said Roger Ailes, the Fox News CEO.
During a campaign conference call on Tuesday, Wolfson defended the campaign's decision to accept the Fox News debate, citing the reach the network had in the Chesapeake area (the debate will be held in Washington D.C.) and prior appearances by both Clinton and Obama on station.
"Given that Senator Obama had been on the network, we've been on the network, and that the offer is a good one for this debate in terms of this upcoming primary, it made sense to accept it," he said.
The announcement by the Clinton campaign comes as both candidates are acknowledging that the Democratic primary fight will likely continue well after the results of Tuesday's voting is known. Earlier in the day, Clinton aides let it be known that the Senator would participate in two other February debates, one on ABC, the other on CNN.
"In a one-one race it is important for voters to see the [candidates] side by side and see the differences as opposed to seeing them at rallies and big events," said Penn. "We feel very good about making sure that there is a side by side comparison."
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