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McCain proposes series of town hall debates

Thu., June 5, 2008

BATON ROUGE, La. – A presidential campaign that has made historic strides in the areas of race, gender and fundraising now could be poised to rewrite the book on debates.

With the bruising Democratic contest over, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain said Wednesday that he had proposed a series of town hall-style meetings across the country with Barack Obama. The first would be at New York City’s Federal Hall on June 12.

“I don’t think we need any big media-run productions, no process questions from reporters, no spin rooms. Just two Americans running for the highest office in the greatest nation on Earth responding to the concerns of the people whose trust we must earn,” McCain said during his own town hall meeting here.

“Oh, we’re definitely going to be doing some town hall debates,” Obama said Wednesday on ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson.” And while the face-offs will not start as soon as McCain suggested, the presumed Democratic nominee said, “I look forward to … having more than just the three traditional debates that we’ve seen in recent presidential contests.”

In his letter to the Obama campaign, McCain suggested 10 town halls, one a week, to be held before the Democratic Convention at the end of August. They would be 60 to 90 minutes each and have blind questions, an independent moderator and a live audience of 200 to 400 voters selected by a polling organization such as Gallup.

That timetable would make the debates the first between major party candidates to occur before Labor Day weekend – the traditional start of the fall campaign season. They also would be the first between candidates who have yet to formally receive their parties’ nominations.


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