Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday rejected Republican rival John McCain's proposal for 10 joint town-hall appearances, offering instead to have just one on July 4.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said he offered to meet McCain in five joint appearances between now and the Nov. 4 election. But only one of those was a town-hall meeting, plus three traditional debates and an in-depth debate on foreign policy.
The McCain campaign said Obama's offer was to hold the single town hall on Independence Day – which likely would have resulted in less attention while Americans are on holiday. McCain told reporters traveling with him in New Jersey that was “a very disappointing response.”
McCain had said the more intimate town-hall format, a give-and-take between a candidate and the audience, would allow real interaction with voters and would be more revealing than formal debates. Town halls are also McCain's favorite style of campaigning and would allow him to get free media attention alongside the better-funded Obama.
When a McCain adviser first floated the idea last month, Obama said it was a great idea. But the Illinois senator said this week that it's not realistic to have 10 town halls with all the other campaigning he needs to do after just clinching the Democratic Party's nomination months after McCain wrapped up the GOP nod.
The two campaigns have been unable to work out a deal, other than to agree that the town halls should not be sponsored by media organizations and instead be open to all networks like presidential debates.
“It's disappointing that Sen. McCain and his campaign decided to decline this proposal. Apparently they would rather contrive a political issue than foster a genuine discussion about the future of our country,” Plouffe said.
McCain responded during a brief news conference in Pemberton, N.J., where he traveled for his own town hall.
“I'll let the American people decide which is the preferable proposal,” he said.