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Clinton, Obama give thumbs up to New Hampshire debate

Story Highlights

• Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama agree to New Hampshire debate
• Democrats' 2008 hopefuls debating June 3, Republicans debating June 5
• Debates sponsored by CNN, WMUR and The New Hampshire Union Leader
By Mark Preston
CNN Political Editor
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama Tuesday joined the leading Democratic and Republican White House hopefuls in agreeing to participate in back-to-back New Hampshire presidential debates next month in the politically influential Granite State.

Clinton and Obama were the final two presidential contenders to announce plans to participate in the debates, which are being held by CNN, WMUR and the New Hampshire Union Leader. Democrats will take the stage at Saint Anselm College on June 3, and Republicans visit the campus on June 5.

Despite early statements that they would work within a debate sanctioning process instituted by the Democratic National Committee, Clinton, a New York Democrat, and Obama, an Illinois Democrat, announced within hours of each other their intentions to take part in the June debate.

"We had hoped that the DNC and the debate's sponsors would agree to make this debate one of the DNC's six sanctioned debates," Obama New Hampshire Director Matt Rodriguez said in a statement released by Obama's campaign. "However, Sen. Obama believes talking about how we can change our politics with the other candidates in the home of the nation's first primary is an opportunity too important to miss."

Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee also noted the role New Hampshire plays in helping select the next president.

"The WMUR/Union Leader debate is an important part of the New Hampshire primary tradition, and Sen. Clinton is excited to participate," Elleithee said in a statement released by the campaign. "She looks forward to this opportunity to continue her conversation with Granite Staters and demonstrate why she is the candidate most ready to lead and deliver the change we need."

Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had previously committed to the June 3 debate.

Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson will appear at the school June 5.

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Sen. Barack Obama, left, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, Tuesday agreed to participate in a June presidential debate in New Hampshire.



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