McCain urges joint town halls with Obama

McCain 2008
Sen. John McCain speaks to supporters during a town hall meeting campaign event in Baton Rouge, La. on Wednesday.Lm Otero / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

John McCain challenged Barack Obama to join him in 10 town hall meetings with voters before the Democratic National Convention in August. An Obama adviser was receptive to the idea and said the campaign would discuss it.

McCain, the Republican nominee-in-waiting, sent his rival a letter outlining the offer on Wednesday, the day after Obama clinched the Democratic nomination. McCain suggested the first town hall be held June 12 in New York.

"We need to now sit down and work out a way that we can have these town hall meetings and have a great debate," McCain told reporters Wednesday in Baton Rouge.

He credits the more intimate town hall format with his victory in the New Hampshire primary that launched his climb to the GOP nomination. McCain said the style would tell voters more than the typical formal, televised debates.

"I don't think we need any big media-run production, no process question from reporters, no spin rooms," McCain said. "Just two Americans running for office in the greatest nation on earth, responding to the questions of the people whose trust we must earn."

McCain said President Kennedy had made such an agreement with former Senator Barry Goldwater for the 1964 election before Kennedy's assassination.

A McCain adviser first floated the idea last month. At the time, Obama said, "I think that's a great idea."

"Obviously, we would have to think through the logistics on that, but to the extent that should I be the nominee, if I have the opportunity to debate substantive issues before the voters with John McCain, that's something that I am going to welcome," Obama said in Bend, Ore., in May.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Wednesday that while the idea is appealing, the campaign would recommend a less-structured, lengthier exchange more in line with the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates.

"But having just secured our party's nomination, this is one of the many items we will be addressing in the coming days and look forward to discussing it with the McCain campaign," Plouffe said.

In the Lincoln-Douglas debates, held seven times during Abraham Lincoln's losing Senate campaign against Stephen Douglas in Illinois in 1858, a candidate spoke for an hour, the other for an hour and a half, and the first candidate was allowed a half-hour rebuttal.