February 15th, 2008
07:30 PM ET
12 years ago

McCain challenges Obama to keep his word on public financing

Sen. McCain challenged his Senate colleague to take public financing.

Sen. McCain challenged his Senate colleague to take public financing.

OSHKOSH, Wisconsin (CNN) – Nearly a year after Barack Obama called on all of his potential general election foes to sign on to a public financing pact, likely GOP nominee John McCain accused the Illinois senator of having a change of heart sparked by his massive fundraising haul.

“It was very clear to me that Sen. Obama had agreed to having public financing of the general election campaign if I did the same thing,” said McCain at a Wisconsin campaign stop Friday. “I made the commitment to the American people that if I were the nominee of my party I would go the route of public financing, I expect Sen. Obama to keep his word to the American people as well.”

Under the agreement, both men would have to forgo private donations entirely in favor of a publicly-funded campaign.

At this point, McCain stands to gain the most from a public financing pledge – Obama has raised nearly three times as much in general election funds. Under the guidelines, both men would be required to return any money they had raised for that contest.

On Friday, Obama seemed to avoid committing to the agreement. "It would be presumptuous of me to start saying now that I'm locking myself into something when I don't even know if the other side is going to agree to it."

Last year, both Obama and his campaign promised to “aggressively pursue” such an agreement with their Republican counterpart. No major party candidate has opted out of the public financing system for the general election since it was created more than three decades ago.

McCain had decided to accept public financing of his primary season campaign last summer – but eventually opted out of the system before accepting funds because it would have limited the amount he would be allowed to spend to $54 million until the Republican Party’s nominating convention this summer.

That scenario promised to seriously handicap his effort if he were to become his party’s nominee and face a well-funded opponent with no spending limits.

–CNN’s Tasha Diakides, Chris Welch and Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (204 Responses)
  1. Dani

    This is the best comment I read in Washington Post on the true nature of Obama:

    The problems with Obama's health care plan are "An Inconvenient Truth"

    His plan encourages people, especially the poor, to go without health insurance to save money.

    Obama isn't a "detail guy." He's said it himself multiple times.

    His lack of attention to detail shows up in how incredibly bad his policy plans are.

    The way his health plan works, people, especially the poor, would be tempted to go without health insurance in order to save money, and wind up going to the emergency room for care.

    Obama said so himself in answer to a debate question, and then he said he'd charge a penalty to those same poor people.

    It happened when Obama tried to "wing it", answering a debate question.

    He's suprisingly bad at thinking on his feet.

    Please remember that all those "inspiring "speeches you get excited about are actually written by someone else, although Obama does actually read them (from a teleprompter)

    Maybe he is a rock star.

    Just like that lip-syncer on SNL.

    February 15, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  2. Belle

    It will be interesting to see if he keeps his pledge or not. If he doesn't, I wonder how he would spin it?

    February 15, 2008 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  3. Jay in Kansas


    What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Is that what they say?
    It is a matter of principles. If you make a promise. You keep a promise. Obama is already seen as a hypocrite, and this will show how inexperience can paralyze a candidate.

    If he changes on this, i will not believe anything he says going forward.

    I think he'd be a great President, but not in terms of what we face today as a nation. I am a lifelong democrat and will vote republican if there is another Commander in Chief who does not know what he's doing in the office.

    February 15, 2008 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  4. Seth

    Well, well, well. If Obama isn't just another run of the mill politician I don't know who is. This guy is so two faced. People accuse the Clinton's of trying to win at all costs, but Obama makes them look like little angels in comparison. I have said this before and I will say it again, no way Obama wins a general election. He is by far the most liberal Senator in the entire senate. If McCain can't beat him I would be very surprised. Senator Clinton on the other hand would most probably beat McCain rather soundly.


    Do the right thing America, Vote Hillary 2008!

    February 15, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  5. Julia

    McCain has to cool down a little before he considers taking the hammer to his piggy bank !

    Barack Obama is not the nominee yet and once all that is settled he can talk to Barack Obama about that. I am confident Barack Obama will come up with a good solution.

    'Til then : OBAMA'08

    February 15, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  6. Jenna

    Obama does not seem to be able to keep his commitments. He is not mature enough for the chief of staff position.

    February 15, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  7. NickSanDiego

    It sounds like McCain is getting Scared and rightfully So. Obama will out do him 4 to 1 in Raising cash and he knows it. I would advise Obama to stick with the US people and our Donations to get him where he is destined to be because he is going to need EVERY penny to fend off all of the attacks and lies that are about to be thrown at him.

    People who we have never heard of will be comming out of the shadows claiming things about Obama that will be false and if he doesn't have $$ to refute them ALL he will be destroyed.

    Our memories of Rove and Swiftboats is still VERY fresh Mr. McCain.

    We are Watching.

    February 15, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  8. Emmanuel, Ind

    Hey John,

    Hold on yet because we still have to wrap up this nomination for Obama. The clintons are like a snake that you don't kill it by cutting the tail you kill it by crushing the head.

    As per public financing system forget about it, we the people have a say in this too, not just Obama. We want the nation to see our contributions that we want our government back. So go back to your repubs and hope they finance you because we are ready to finance Obama with our little salary earnings.

    Public fianacing can start after Obamas first term in office. So deal with it John. And the last time i checked you John is a war hero not a cry baby.

    February 15, 2008 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  9. Jeff - Plainfield, IL

    I don't know enough about the "public financing" idea to judge whether it is a good idea or not (not meaning for one candidate or the other, but the system itself).

    I think contribution limits and full-disclosure are probably more important. Either way, a publicly-financed general campaign would definitely drastically favor McCain over the current situation.

    The question for Obama is whether voters' knowledge that he gave up the funding upper-hand for a "public finance" undertaking would benefit him as much or more than foregoing it. It is definitely something his campaign management should be analyzing.

    February 15, 2008 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  10. Janet

    This is who Hillary Clinton supporters would prefer over Barack Obama? He agrees to one thing, then decides it's not in his best interest, and then now wants to switch back? Hmmm... Sounds just like HRC!

    February 15, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  11. Doc Jerome

    McCain is showboating. This is going to be the most lopsided election in history. There is a profound movement and that movement has a leader in Barack Obama.

    Someone should tell McCain and the so called Conservatives that they can fall on the sword but so many times.

    February 15, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  12. John in CA

    Uh-oh, Obama is in trouble... he will either handicap himself for the general election or he can risk looking like a flip-flopper that he accused Hillary of being. Obama has talked himself into a hole now... let's see how he gets out of this one.

    The GOP attack machine is just getting started... I wonder if Obama will really be ready for the Republicans...

    February 15, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  13. John in Columbus, OH

    What? Stop taking $5 donations from ordinary folks?

    If we're serious about getting "special interest" money out, maybe they can agree to not accept contributions over $200. Then, let see who's really serious about campaing finance reform. Otherwise, this is just a desperate Clintonesque challenge.

    February 15, 2008 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  14. Donna Florida school teacher

    Am I missing something. I don't think that all of the states have voted yet. Don't count us out here in Florida either!!

    February 15, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  15. Karen

    Looks like Obama is going back on what he said a year ago. Sort of like the time he said he accidentally pressed the wrong button while voiting. Ha Ha.......now the fun begins. A new kind of politics indeed. Only washington does some one propose thing and then not quite a year later, say that he lock himself to it. Ha Ha ... the cult of obama begins to unravel. At least CNN had the grace to put it on the ticker. I thought they would hide it or something.

    February 15, 2008 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  16. jessica

    I know Obama is just like any other politician – I hope his true colors come about before it is too late. Obama needs more experience and even if Hillary looses the nomination the conservatives will never vote for Obama. I personall will vote McCain if Obama gets the nomination. HE IS NOT GOOD FOR OUR COUNTRY

    February 15, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  17. Truth hurts

    Jay, what makes you believe Hillary would not what she's doing as commander in chief: her poor senate record or the fact that she's the wife of Bill Clinton?

    As for Dani, Mrs. Clinton had the chance in the 90's when America was prosperous at enacting her health care plan. She failed miserably and would fail again, as there is no way in hell that the republicans would accept it. Wake Up!

    February 15, 2008 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  18. Dan A

    Will somebody tell " old Man McCain" to take some more Geritol and " shut up ""

    February 15, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  19. Jose

    Wrong again. Republicans don't care who the Democrats put up for defeat. Obama would be easier, but Hillary will do just as well. The Country is not ready to revisit the 60's. Race and Gender are dividing the Country and we are tired of it. How about voting for ability and experience. He(McCain) puts country ahead of self and has the history to prove it.

    February 15, 2008 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  20. BB

    Like a member of the Keating 5 should have a lot of say!!!

    February 15, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  21. geminiani

    It shows that McCain has more integrity than Obama . Obama is tied with so many vested interest people . If Obama is the Democratic nominee without the big states supporting him , he is toast . Obama wouldn't even allow the legitimate voters of Michigan and Florida primaries to be counted . Talk about Unity and Integrity !

    February 15, 2008 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  22. James ( Independent )

    Now wait just a minute , last week McCain said HE was not going to go with federal funding.So if anyone has backed out on anything , it's McCain.

    February 15, 2008 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  23. Thimbletack

    It must be to McCains advantage or he wouldnt have brought it up.Obama will still beat him by a land slide.As far as the Washington Post is concerned I wouldnt even use it for the bird cage bottom.

    February 15, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  24. Hillaryboo

    er hillary trolls please stop attacking obama 4 this...obama has stated that once he is the nominee he will stick to his word on the condition that the opponent does tooo.

    February 15, 2008 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  25. Carole in Canada

    Obama is the one who's trying to back out of it now!!

    On Friday, Obama seemed to avoid committing to the agreement. "It would be presumptuous of me to start saying now that I'm locking myself into something when I don't even know if the other side is going to agree to it."

    February 15, 2008 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
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