BISMARCK (North Dakota) • Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders have explored staging an unconventional presidential debate that would sideline Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton and create a television spectacle that could attract huge ratings.
The two men expressed interest in a one-on-one encounter in California even though Republican and Democratic candidates traditionally do not debate each other until the parties have selected nominees.
"I'd love to debate Bernie," Mr Trump told reporters. "I think it would get very high ratings."
Trump spokesman Hope Hicks said in an e-mail that there were no formal plans yet for a debate. But Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said there had been "a few discussions" between the campaigns. "We hope that he will not chicken out," he said.
A nationally televised debate with Mr Trump would be a big boost to Senator Sanders' chances in the June 7 California primary. "Game on," he tweeted. "I look forward to debating Donald Trump."
Mrs Clinton said she did not think the debate would happen. "This doesn't sound like a serious discussion."