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

McCain challenges Obama to keep his word on public financing

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/02/15/art.macborack.gi.jpg caption="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. jimdon

    is Obama is beginning to welsh out of the agreement to accept public financing now that he has built such a large internet support base.

    on other notes Obama's support appears to be coming from the Reagan democrats,as well as his natural constituantcy,namley the service workers.and some independents,,rather than the meat and potato,lesser educated blue collar worker's, the building trade's,such as carpenter's and iron workers and the auto worker type union's..that seemed to have backed Senator Edwards.....

    February 15, 2008 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  2. shaun

    Oh shut up... we know who obama is...mccain is just doing that old washington smear tactic stuff hoping people are dumb enough to fall for it. It happens every election year..its like people forget how worthless these politicians are for the most important year, get fooled by there trashy lies, vote for the trash, then wonder why they made such a horrible mistake.
    do you really want a john mccain or a hillary clinton running this country? Is that just more of the same? Please, don't blow it this time, vote obama, and you'll have a great country again..if not, you will see your mistakes later without the opportunity to change them...

    February 15, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  3. thomas

    Obama will be crushed by McCain in November.

    February 15, 2008 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  4. James Mo

    Let's see, I was for it before I was against it, but now I am for it.

    February 15, 2008 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  5. southerner

    Did any of you here obama say he would not do it?.....anyone?...case close....the article did not say he refused!

    February 15, 2008 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  6. Robert

    I think once he is chosen the nominee for sure, and McCain is chosen, he'll probably agree. But it's not the time to start talking about limiting his spending while he's still in a hard fight with Clinton. If he does agree, it won't really hurt him that much because he'll get the free press for standing on principal, he'll still have an even amount of money as McCain, and he'll be able to give his money to down ticket candidates which will help him in close areas anyway.

    February 15, 2008 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  7. Helios

    Let's face it. Washington is still corrupt. There is no good candidate, just varying levels of bad. Hell, even with a "good" president, Congress will bastardize any legal document that goes through there (I'd like to see the crap that comes out of it after they put any of Clinton's or Obama's ideas through). They need to resurrect the amendment limiting terms of Congress.

    February 15, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  8. ho tc

    It's good to put more pressure on Obama.

    He used to support "single-payer health care" and at one debate (hosted by CNN), he said he never said he supported it. Immigration is another issue he couldn't provide a detailed plan (or flip-flopped) until recently.

    People really should do some research on every candidate.

    February 15, 2008 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  9. Gobama

    McCain is being childish and old school. This kind of silliness is not the what Americans need to move America forward.

    Flip flop McCain has long lost any moral authority to goad anyone into keeping their word', especially words which were never made.

    Here is a guy who has been selling his soul to the evangelical devils; so much so that his own mother is suggesting that others may have to 'hold their nose' in dealing with her son. lol

    Did McCain keep his word when he first RIGHTLY trashed Bush's mindless tax cuts for the greedy, and now turn around and gush over the tax cuts because he's currying favor from the 'hounds from hell' on the conservative side?

    McCain continue to lose all the integrity Americans once thought he had in abundance. Such a shame.

    Obama should just take pity on him and ignore the old man.

    February 15, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  10. pj

    i support Obama, therefore i truly hope he keeps his word on this, specially since he made the challenge first. i'm glad mcain brought this up and hope Obama answers the call.

    February 15, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  11. Georgia

    Politics as usual. Promise them anything – even if you can't or won't deliver. If he doesn't keep this promise, will he keep any of his campaign promises for change?

    February 15, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  12. Kevin Miller

    Doesn't matter either way, Obama could beat McCain with almost no budget. McCain knows the rich conservatives and Texas millionaire oil drillers won't be giving to his campaign like they did for Bush eight years ago. He has no choice but to go with Public Financing. Obama doesn't need to agree to anything.

    February 15, 2008 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  13. Jim673

    Obama,... keep a pledge that reduces the amount of cash that he has at his disopsal. Just because he gave his word. No Chance of that. He's all about the cash and the bull crap. Playing fair and honest is only what he wants people to think he would do. It's Not what he will do. He lies about most everything and his blind mice follow. The heck of it is that they know he's a lier and that's OK with them. He is a reflection of his voters own self and he plays them well. I would say I hope you all get what you all deserve. But then the rest of us would have to suffer with you. So I hope that Hillary will prevail. If not, there's always McCain.

    February 15, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  14. Johnnie Walker

    This election and it's coverage is nothing but a joke. The reporting has been so negative against Hillary Clinton. She has been accused of being polarizing. I watch CNN and other Networks and nearly everytime she opens her mouth, she is ATTACKING Obama according to the news. Yet when he speaks of her, the News reports his remarks as SWIPES. I watched nearly every debate and I noticed that he always made the first attack. And for these super delegates switching, I mean flipflopping from one candidate to another. Where is their integrity. Last but not least, Obama will leave millions out of his healthcare plan if he is to make it 'affordable'. If you don't have a job or lose the one you have, what can you afford? Poor people had better get their heads out of the sand.

    February 15, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  15. Curious

    I don't understand the "public financing" issue all that well; however, I do think at $54,000,000 per candidate (estimated $100 million) in the general election could be better well spent. The media enterprises get rich off this and nothing really improves for the taxpayers.

    Educate me please. I don't understand why Obama, Clinton or McCain would WANT to use this financing.

    Unless someone can give me a reasonable explanation; I say take the private donations and send the govt money to rebuild the Gulf, revamp our infrastructure, support our veterans, fund education and medical research, etc., etc.

    I think Obama, for whatever his reasons, will be doing us a favor NOT taking the "public financing".

    February 15, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  16. RW

    Good job, McCain! Way to pin Obama down and expose him for the opportunistic old school politician that he is. He thought it sounded good at the time to agree to public financing. Now he wants to back out because it wouldn't be an advantage for him.

    But be careful, John. The Obama camp just might be able to spin this as a racial attack. They like to use that racial teflon to defend against attack.

    February 15, 2008 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  17. And So it Begins

    And so it begins...McCain will crush Obama,

    February 15, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  18. Rob

    It doesn't matter if Obama was running on $4,523.13. He would still beat McCain. This is not a story since McCain hasn't agreed to it himself.

    February 15, 2008 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  19. Ken Austin, TX

    Go through with your word Barack. You are an awesome candidate, and to be honest with you, this wouldn't affect your campaign not ONE BIT. You will still be the next president of the United States, regardless if your campaign funds are publicly funded or not.

    As for you McCain, this is a cheap shot. Is this the best that you could
    do? Do you not have any other material issues to debate Barack over instead of something as petty as this. You're only pursuing the matter because it would be beneficial to you. You need to come with something stronger than this if you want to dampen Barack's campaign and his followers.

    Barack '08 '12

    February 15, 2008 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  20. Susan

    I want to point out a disparity in CNN's reporting. Obama has weaknesses, as this article and the comments highlight. We don't spend enough time learning about his weaknesses because the media handles him like a baby. Please read the NYT story about Superdelegates Gregory Meeks, and Edolphus Towns in NY, continuing to support Clinton despite the fact that Obama won their districts.

    CNN covers Superdelegates of color struggling with balancing their race and their support of Clinton but they do not cover those who have overcome the struggle and continue to support Clinton. This is unfair coverage and I challenge CNN to post this comment.

    February 15, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  21. josh r.

    HAHAAHA McCain!!! You know Obama has more funding power than you and now you're trying to make him look bad for it!! Obama please on behalf of the American people accept every dime we give you. We don't care about your agreement, we care about crushing McCain. Pull no punches, don't pull a Kerry. KNOCK HIM OUT!!!!!!!!!!

    February 15, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  22. Mark H.

    This from a man, McCain, who ASKED for federal funds/matching funds, then decided he didn't want the money after all. Now, he wants to challenge someone? He is the hypocrite. He wanted that money when he was broke, behind and losing. Now, all of a sudden McCain doesn't want the money. And why do you suppose he himself doesn't want the money? Yet, he has the nerve to call someone else out. Give me a break. Unless he has decided to take that money, he'd better shut up real fast.

    February 15, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  23. JohnS

    Frankly, McCain is as OLD as Hillary. Have we not seen and heard from these old politicians before? Is this the man who could not knock out Bush of 2 occasions? Is this ole man for real?

    As regards Hillary, no comments. The only problem I see if how the Latino/Latina will fare when Obama wins the nomination. Wise people would start to rethink their positions!!

    February 15, 2008 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  24. David

    Hmmmm, Obama is in a pickle. Could this be his first mis-step?

    Well even he is due a mistake or two from timeto time. Hillary supporters have no room to make too much fuss over this. Unless of course, they want to get into a debate regarding campaign funding sources.

    Why would Obama, at this point, go to public financing? That would be foolish and silly. The DNC would NEVER allow that to happen.

    People are voting based on fear, emotion, and hidden agenda's. That's what got us GWB.

    I say, do what you need to bvecome president and stay president Obama. It that means doing things against your "better-taste" do it. We need you. Continue to take Hillary down and then blow by McCain in the general.

    Obama 08' 12'

    February 15, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  25. Brian

    Obama is not even the democratic nominee yet. But it doesn't stop the above Clintonites and McCain Republicans from saying he is a flip flopper...... Give the guy a chance...... History has shown he is less of a flip flopper than Hillary (Don't you dare drink from the same water fountain as me... Goldwater Girl)

    February 15, 2008 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
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