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. Charlotte

    Obama does not do well in a question and answer scenerio. I think it as a great idea. We need to know about him. I never was one to buy a pig in a poke. The young people who support Obama are reckless and are the reason car insurance is so high. A parent pays threw the nose for insurance until they or their children are 24 years of age. Anyone wonder why that is?

    June 10, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  2. lizfor hillary clinton

    obama is just a good preacher...i agree.....go mcCain

    June 10, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  3. Anita from Arizona

    McCain can't foot the bill. Don't get mad at Obama for having the funds to run the campaign he wants. And you expect McCain to properly balance this countries check book? I don't think so. Order from the senior menu, that'll save some money.

    June 10, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  4. Len in Washington

    Do I really have to listen to McCains rambling and look at that goofy grin. No, NO, NO!

    June 10, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  5. Pepou

    You bet he wants these debates. He wants to make sure that there are enough people attending. Without Obama there would not be many ... In other words, let's benefit by your opponent !

    June 10, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  6. What if?

    Does McBush know anything else besides debates and war story. Why is it he wants to debate so bad, All he can say is “Just the two of us, in direct conversation with voters'. What about gas prices, mortgages, food cost, war in Iraq and of course affordable living? does he realize that we are tired of his useless tactics regarding a debate, we want SOLUTIONS for this messed up economy by the Bush administration.

    Obama keep staying with our everyday issues, McCain is out of touch with the voters concerns of today.

    Obama 08

    June 10, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  7. andrew s. rostolder

    why not debate on national tv with all the bells and whistles. with your experience you will make the young wipper snapper look like a fool................................................NOT.....................................

    June 10, 2008 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  8. Open Minded

    I struggle to understand why so many Obama supporters are angry about the idea of this. For a bunch of people who claim to be voting for the candidate of change, you seem to be dead set on going through same name calling, nation polarizing election process as we have previously put up with. I hope McCain and Obama find a way to agree to something like this. It would be refreshing.

    Change '08

    June 10, 2008 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  9. New Day

    ditto heads are amusing. After the election, I am going to start a petition to have President Obama placed them on endangered species list along with their fat, bigot leader. Do you honestly think that any of these blog sites are seen by more than a fraction of one percent of the electorate? Do you think you are influencing the election by pretending to be outraged Hillary supporters or overbearing Obama supporters? Anyone that cares enough to come on these blogs already knows who they are voting for in November.

    It's so silly to think that, play all these cloak-and-dagger games will influence anything.

    Your brainless leader asked you to keep McCain from the nomination and you failed. Then, he wanted you to influence the Dems race to help Hillary (whom you perceived as the weaker candidate) win. How did that turn out for you? So, now you're trying to drive a wedge between Hillary and Obama supporters. Well, here's a news flash: the vast majority of people that voted for either candidate dont take politics that seriously, dont come on news sites, and will vote the party line in Nov.

    June 10, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. MIKE

    just a note to all talking about "57 state". There were 57 PRIMARIES AND CAUCUSES!....

    This is lame. Get to the real issues!

    June 10, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  11. Venus


    For those who think that Hillary won any debates... where is Hillary now?

    So much for thinking Obama is weak on debates! They did Hillary a lot of good........................... then her and Bill turned on the media!

    Obama... let McBush beg for debates! If you noticed – McBush stopped counting the days since Obama has visited Iraq after Obama called him out on the carpet about McBush not visiting cities in America!

    June 10, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  12. Nia

    I can't wait....

    June 10, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  13. Colony14Author

    The more debates and meetings the better. Perhaps then people will start discussing the issues and stop the dumb remarks about Obama's ears or Hillary's thighs or McCain's smile. And you can only go so far with "McCain is just another Bush." Well, Obama is "just another Nancy Pelosi or Maxine Waters." Tell me you'll allow drilling for oil offshore and in ANWR, tell me you'll support more nuclear plants and refineries, and you'll get my vote. Tell me you'll raise taxes and raise prices with foolish carbon offset legislation and you won't get my vote. I don't care about your ears, thighs, or smiles.

    June 10, 2008 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  14. Rudy NYC

    Does the GOP realize that a new brand of politics is being fought in this campaign? Democrats have chosen to allow themselves to evolve into something new, which is perhaps what angers so many Clinton supporters. Hillary represented everything that has not worked very well for Democrats since the Carter years.

    Thanks to Bush, "fear and smear" will be a losing argument for at least a generation. I wonder if the GOP can see that. It could be too late to change and adapt though. The change would need to be a bit more dramatic than what McCain has brought to the table so far.

    June 10, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  15. Kevin in Maryland for Obama

    McCain, I guess this is the only way you can get millions of people to watch you because you are one boring, noting new old Republican, you even wanted to switch parties at one time. Man, you are so out of touch it is unreal. Frist you stated that the economy was good, then you stated you do not know much about the economy----why are you even in this contest......get out and go retire.....

    June 10, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  16. Jeff in Illinois

    McCain can't afford a real campaign. I think Obama should agree to maybe 4 "town-hall" style debates. Either way, I just can't wait to see Obama spark McCain's rage. It'll guarantee him the WWF vote, but he's already got that.

    June 10, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  17. lizfor hillary clinton

    this whole oil and gas thing rising...maybe somebody should investigate market manipulation...has NOTHING to do with POLITICS STRAIGHT old unethical BUSINESS if you ask me...people get greedy...and want more $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    we need to stop driving our gas tanks....and make it hurt to wall street....

    June 10, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |

    For those who make comments like, Obama would rather "preach" than do a town-hall-style debate:


    "Shi'a, oh...I mean Sunni"

    or "I will veto every beer!"

    McCain will get slammed!!!!!

    June 10, 2008 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  19. GO OBAMA

    GO OBAMA! Anyone who questions his “vetting” for President of the United States is “tangentially inconsequential.” Furthermore, everyone understands that voting “present” 130 times in the IL Senate is “trivial” compared to his having to sit in that church for 20 years just to advance his political career. He was not born to a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas to end up earning the “infinitesimally” tiny salary of $14K a year as a community organizer. Nor did he attend Harvard so that he could steel a measly couple of thousand votes during his run for the IL Senate. NO! His vision has always been higher than that.

    June 10, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  20. Nia

    Obama told McCain he will after his Economics tour... did he forget

    June 10, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  21. paulie_nj

    Obama doesn't do so well without his teleprompter, boo-hoo.

    June 10, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  22. Jamie

    I think that Obama would do well to take McCain up on this challenge. He's a far better speaker and resonates well with people, and frankly, he's not very good at sound bites anyway.

    Get them both in the room, talking, and he'll have the platform to show that even when he's at odds with Republicans, he can be friendly and cooperative. That's what he needs to demonstrate, because that's what voters want in November: a uniting leader to heal the divisions of the Bush legacy.

    June 10, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  23. Ennis, LA

    McCain should be the last to call for debates given his track
    record as a cantankerous and boastful debater he showed
    himself to be early this year.

    June 10, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  24. Agnostic Democrat

    Lookin' for a free ride on the real Straight Talk Express, hey Grumpy McSham? A little free airtime? The wheels have fallen off and your bearings are looser than ever. You couldn't shoot straight if your life depended on it. Chameleons aren't known for their best shots. Get your sidekick Lieberman to stick his hand up your back to keep your mouth moving.

    June 10, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  25. Beltway Insider

    Smart people know Obama will be our next President.

    Nothing will change this. Crying, complaining, whining, and throwing temper tantrums won't change it. Racists and bitter old hags won't change it.

    Obama will be our next President. Period. Get used to it.

    OBAMA '08

    June 10, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
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