McCain camp pressures Obama on town halls

The campaign of GOP standard-bearer Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain says Steyer should drop out: 'I hate that guy' Sanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' GOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman MORE (Ariz.) is putting pressure on Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Hill's Campaign Report: Gloves off in South Carolina 6 ways the primary fight is toughening up Democrats for the fall general election Bloomberg called Social Security a 'Ponzi scheme' as mayor MORE (Ill.) to accept the invitation to debate the issues in a series of town hall meetings.

The format would give McCain, who cannot match Obama’s fundraising prowess, free media exposure.

On Friday, the Arizona senator’s campaign announced that McCain had accepted an invitation to hold joint town hall meetings at the Ronald Reagan and Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Libraries.

“The American people deserve a great debate about the future of our country, and we hope that Barack Obama will join us for these important events at these historic venues,” McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker said.

In addition, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis sent a letter to his counterpart David Plouffe, saying that the Republican candidate would reserve time on his schedule “for joint town halls every Thursday night until the Democratic convention.”

McCain wants to hold 10 town hall meetings with Obama. The Obama campaign said the senator had offered to appear in five joint appearances with McCain, including the three traditional debates.

“I hope Sen. Obama would reconsider his position and agree to join Sen. McCain as early as next week,” Davis said.

He added that the McCain campaign fears “that our negotiations over joint town hall meetings are turning into a debate about process. That is exactly what we have always hoped to avoid, and why we proposed a town hall format that would render many of these process issues moot.”

Davis cast McCain’s proposal as a “chance to change the way presidential elections are run and elevate the political dialogue.”

In response, Plouffe said it is “disappointing that Senator 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.”

Obama’s campaign manager added that the Illinois senator “believes that the American people deserve an open and accessible debate as they choose between real change and four more years of failed Bush policies, and he welcomed McCain’s invitation to offer voters ‘the rare opportunity of witnessing candidates for the highest office in the land discuss civilly and extensively the great issues at stake in the election.’ ”