Hillary Clinton agrees to April 27 debate


NEW YORK -- Hillary Clinton has agreed to a Sunday, April 27, primetime debate in North Carolina, which would be "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric's first turn to moderate a presidential debate.

Now all that remains is for Barack Obama, who previously accepted CBS' offer of a debate April 19, to agree to the new date.

"We're very optimistic that he'll accept," said Jerry Meek, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party. The state party stepped in to partner with CBS after an earlier proposal for April 19 was rejected because it was the first day of Passover.

Clinton's acceptance came a few hours after CBS offered primetime real estate following "60 Minutes" to lock down the debate. CBS and the North Carolina Democratic Party sent letters Wednesday to both campaigns offering a 90-minute debate that would be held Sunday, April 27, between 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ET. It would be one of only a handful of debates that have been aired this season on a broadcast network, all on ABC. "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric and "Face the Nation" moderator Bob Schieffer would moderate from a hall in either Raleigh or Charlotte.

After a December debate in Los Angeles was canceled due to the writers strike, CBS had to sit on the sidelines. In an interview earlier this week with The Hollywood Reporter, Schieffer said that the network and CBS News President Sean McManus were "making a major effort" to secure the debate and he's confident that it will happen.

"It's been a matter of scheduling, trying to find a date when both candidates could agree on it," he said. "I think it will happen."

The stakes are particularly high for CBS. The network is hoping that her performance will boost Couric's profile. So far, her rivals NBC's Brian Williams and ABC's Charles Gibson, have moderated multiple debates. ABC also beat out NBC and others for the next debate, April 16, before the Pennsylvania primary.

"It is more than passing strange that in the year when you have the first serious woman candidate and the first serious African American candidate, the only woman anchor hasn't had a role," said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "That should change. CBS does need that break and Katie needs that break."