June 10th, 2008
12:53 PM ET
15 years ago

McCain pushes for town hall debates


Watch McCain's comments Tuesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - John McCain continued his push for regular town hall-style debates with rival Barack Obama, raising the challenge again Tuesday as his campaign calls for as many as 10 face-offs this summer.

“As you know it has begun in earnest as you may have heard, Senator Obama and I might well be meeting soon in a series of town hall discussions,” McCain told business leaders gathered in the nation’s capital for the National Small Business Summit.

“Just the two of us, in direct conversation with voters. No need to turn it into a big media-run production with process questions from reporters, a spin room, and all the rest of it. Just to keep things friendly, I also suggested that my opponent and I travel to these town hall meetings together in the same plane. I promise not to try and fly it,” joked the Arizona senator. McCain, a naval aviator during the Vietnam War, was shot down and held captive for years.

“…We need the town hall meeting,” he added. “Let’s stop yelling at each other and let’s stop having sound bites and process questions and those things. The American people want a respectful and civilized discussion.”

The presumptive GOP presidential nominee is proposing ten town hall meetings - one each week between now and the Democratic Convention in late August. McCain proposes having a few hundred people at each, chosen by a non-partisan organization.

Shortly after McCain issued his latest challenge, Obama said he was on board – but that his involvement might fall short of the weekly meetings McCain has suggested.

“It's not realistic probably to do 10, given all the campaigning that I have to do since we just finished our primary season,” the Illinois senator told reporters in St. Louis, Missouri. “So it will probably be somewhat fewer than 10, but more than the 3 that have already been agreed to, and we’ll probably propose a mix of formats.”

The three that Obama referred to are the three debates this autumn announced by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (228 Responses)
  1. Greg Pottstown, Pa.

    Emma June 10th, 2008 2:09 pm ET

    This is something John McCain needs, not Senator Obama. Senator McCain does not have the right to decide on town hall meetings as the only forum to bring discussions to the voters.

    Let's see some debates between the two nominees. I believe John McCain's temper will surely rise to the surface when he is faced with a one-on-one debate.

    By the way, Senator Obama has the right to choose his own VP. Why should white folks decide for him, this remind me of the old south when white people supposedly took care of their black workers. After all, black folks could not be trusted to make the right decision. He is the nominee, not white America.

    Go home you racist. Don't forget that it was white men that set the slaves free.Don't forget it was the blood of white men that painted the fields red.

    You know what . I am tired of this. I am in my late 20s I have never been racist to anyone. you can call me a racist but i know that i have taken a black employee home and his family to feed them dinner when his wife lost her job.I don't see white America and black america like you. I see my family , I see my fellow Americans and we will not stand for your Bigotry

    June 10, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  2. jAYjAY

    McCain cannot draw people to his events so he wants to use Obama to get a croud and free press.

    June 10, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  3. Gary Chandler in Canada

    While McCain DID sponsor a bill, with a huge loophole, to stop the military from torturing detainees; he then voted against a similar bill preventing the CIA from doing the same. Why he would he oppose closing the back door on his bill? He even urged Bush to veto the fix up bill.
    Just check wikipedia, or Google.
    In October 2005, McCain introduced the McCain Detainee Amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill for 2005. It became the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 as Title X of the Department of Defense Authorization bill. The amendment prohibits inhumane treatment of prisoners, including prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, by confining interrogations to the techniques in Army Field Manual 34-52, "Intelligence Interrogation".
    HOWEVER, in February 2008 he voted against HR 2082, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, which included provisions that WOULD have prevented the CIA from waterboarding prisoners. (and electric shock, forced nudity, sexual stuff, and more)
    "This wasn't a vote on waterboarding. This was a vote on applying the standards of the [Army] field manual to CIA personnel.
    ALSO, McCain said in March 2007 that he would "immediately close Guantanamo Bay, move all the prisoners to Fort Leavenworth and truly expedite the judicial proceedings in their cases".
    HOWEVER, on September 19, 2007, he voted against restoring habeas corpus to detainees.

    June 10, 2008 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  4. Teddy California

    It is unlikely Obama will accept the debates. Obama will have more money and he is great at prepared speech. While he is pretty good at town hall meetings too, but why does he want to get potential traps at the town hall meetings?

    June 10, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  5. FedUpDem

    CNN) — Just how small were the differences between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton?

    "Infinitesimal," said Barack Obama at a fundraising event in St. Lous Monday

    Here's more hypocrisy considering he said there were big differences during the primaries!!

    June 10, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  6. Women for Obama

    It's a good idea but I don't think McCain wants any piece of Obama when it comes to debates. This is right down his alley. As an Obama supporter, I totally welcome it. However, I would limit the town-hall meetings to maybe 3-5 debates. 10 debates is way too much !

    June 10, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  7. Obama all the way

    Old bird is scared of 25,000 people but rather speak to 10 people. Mc Cain those many people won't swallow you if you join him on his campaign trail.

    when he Obama gives a speech you can stay in the corner and he will let you know when it's your turn. If scared, stay with your town hall meeting Mc Bush.

    June 10, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  8. Ben

    Grandpa, the last thing you want is to be seen at the same place and time as Obama. Very bad decision. Remember last Tuesday night? You were horrible!!

    June 10, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  9. Heather

    I think "town hall" style debates are the way to go. I do not believe that CNN did a very good job in moderating the previous ones, this will be the way to go. They can get up close and semi-personal with actual voters.

    June 10, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  10. wycliffe, NJ


    June 10, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  11. JJ

    I think the town halls are a good way to get these two together in the same room discussing the issues. People aren't really educated on these two candidates and their stance with the issues will have a chance to listen and educate themselves. You must make informed decisions when voting and I think this a good forum to hold such discussions.

    June 10, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  12. Marc in Virginia

    Don't waste your time, McCain. Obama will not join you in these townhalls. He is afraid.

    June 10, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  13. Axis of Evil - Bush - Cheney - McCain

    McCain extends tax breaks to the richest Americans. They are having problems filling up their yachts!!!

    How about naming our permanent bases in Iraq after John McWar?

    How about making CHENEY EVEN RICHER once he gets out of the White House!!

    Love your country...then don't make a McStake!

    June 10, 2008 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  14. Fight the liberal media!

    straight from Hillaryclinton.com


    by Vel at 6/7/2008 12:33:04 PM

    [Login or Create Account to Reply]
    We support you FOREVER!!!

    BUT we will NEVER support BO!!! He doesn't deserve it! He stole it!!! NEVER means NEVER!!!

    Also, we will FOREVER remember what BO, his nasty supporters, MSM, & the UNdemocratic DNC did in this election.

    McCain 08!!!

    Hillary 2012!!!

    by People at 6/7/2008 1:33:08 PM

    I love it! McCain has this wrapped up
    welcome former hillary supporters! together we will rid the US of abortion and homosexual marriage before our family structure crumbles!

    June 10, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  15. McPREZ08

    Let them fight while we UNITE. Save the babies. Save one man one woman.

    June 10, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  16. Pat

    Nice try Nick but no go.

    Yes McCain has experience but he's for the same ways of life that Bush is for

    I don't know about most people, but I don't want to go bomb Iran and possibly start WW III or spend the next 100 years in Iraq. If we live that long. WW III might kill us all first.

    I also don't want the economy in the same shape it is now or the gas prices.

    Sorry but I think i'm going to go with a candidate that is for change.

    Its time we change and bring hope back to America. Cause we sure aren't looking to good right now and a vote for McCain would keep us at the same spot.

    Obama/? 08 and 12

    June 10, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  17. David Goldman for OBAMA





    June 10, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  18. Dina/Bronx for Obama

    Sen. McCain:

    Before inviting Barack Obama to any town hall debates, how about waiting until AFTER the conventions so that you're both OFFICIALLY the Democratic and the Republican presidential nominees. Right now, you're both ONLY presumptives. let's make it official before the debates begin. By then, we should know who your running mates are and these town hall meetings can be planned a little better. Besides, it's almost summer time and it's been a very long running season. Give us all a break and let's all have a nice summer and we'll see you all in the Fall.

    June 10, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  19. Older is a good thing

    Stop calling McCain an "old man". He is wiser than Obama, older maybe, but definetely wiser and smarter. He will do just fine in Town Hall Debates – after all he is the one calling for them. Obama wants a controlled in the bag interview with the media on his side – you know, just like in the Primary. He is "afraid" of the public and their questions. He cannot have any pre-planned answers or for that matter "Hillary to answer first" any more. Obama is a follower not a leader. He needs to vet himself entirely to the public. So come on Mr. Obama – lets see what you are "really" made of.

    June 10, 2008 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  20. Loretta from California

    He's broke, people. He needs Senator Obama's help to pay for his campaign. Do not be fooled. He is the enemy, and according to Bush, and McCain, Senator Obama should not converse with the enemy. Why would he be asking the Enemy to fly with him. I do not trust him.

    June 10, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  21. William, from Cali

    I don't know about everyone else, but for myself, I'm not ready to sit thru any more debates of "JUST WORDS", from ither canidate.....Roll your shirt sleeves up, and get to work; and solve some of these problems; while" we can".............I for one, don't want to hear just idle speeches, anymore.............................Do something!

    June 10, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  22. Chris

    Experience means absolutely nothing in this election, both candidates come from different walks of experience. I.E. Washington or State Level. There is no experience preparation for the US Presidency.

    In regards to questions, I just have one for McCain. WHAT IS VICTORY IN IRAQ???? I don't think anyone has a clue.

    June 10, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  23. Michael Lorton, Virginia

    McCain keeps pushing for these town hall meetings with Obama, and in time, they will occur. But McCain should be cautious because it may well be that he becomes the student rather than the teacher.

    June 10, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  24. Spring Heat

    Mr. McFool doesn't have a chance on the town hall meetings! Even when these republicans set up Obama with some of their flukies to ask some off cue questions, Obama will not falter! If McFool wants town hall meetings instead of large scale meetings then maybe he should run for mayor of a small town in Arizona! LOL Go home buddy and save yourself from destroying your career. Truthfully, I think you have made a fool of yourself already, go ask Joe Liberman!!! LOL

    OBAMA 08 & 12

    June 10, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  25. B

    McCain better not do this. I feel Obama is going to make him look like a clown in these town meetings. After the first town meeting watch polls favor Obama. But then its too late. McCain would have already agreed to 20 thinking he had the upper hand.

    June 10, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
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