NEW YORK — John McCain and Barack Obama rejected an offer Sunday from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and ABC News to host the first proposed presidential town hall because they do not want it limited to one television network.
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McCain, the likely Republican nominee, last week asked his Democratic counterpart to join him for 10 meetings in the coming months, and campaign managers for both sides said they had agreed in spirit to schedule some type of joint appearances.
But the campaigns rejected a formal offer outlined in a letter from Bloomberg and ABC News on Sunday that envisioned kicking off the town hall series with a 90-minute, prime-time broadcast from New York. The campaigns said the candidates want the meetings open for broadcast on all television networks or on the Internet, rather than be sponsored by a single network or news organization.
Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor who toyed with running for president as an independent, has sought to hold onto the spotlight that began to fade after he ultimately decided against a White House run.
A spokesman indicated Bloomberg would not give up on trying to influence the town hall meeting process.
"We're committed to finding a similar format that works for a joint town hall meeting between the two candidates in the nation's largest city," Stu Loeser said.
ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said the network is open to discussing a wider distribution for the town hall.
"We think the important thing is bringing the candidates together," he said.
Bloomberg and ABC News President David Westin had proposed that the first meeting take place at Federal Hall in Manhattan. McCain already had suggested the venue, and wanted the first meeting to take place on Thursday.
In their letter to the candidates Sunday, Bloomberg and Westin said the date and other details — like how much interaction the candidates would have with voters or a moderator — would be worked out between the two campaigns.
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