From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
BEND, Ore. -- This election year has already broken fundraising and
voter participation records, but it could also break the mold for how
campaigning is done during a general election.
Think of hand-to-hand combat, but with words, something akin to a
rhetorical duel on policy that plays out right before voters' eyes, in
state after state, without the interruption of pesky journalists asking
questions about issues the candidates believe are not important. This
time they would be in control.
It could happen.
Politico reported that Republican strategist Mark McKinnon has
suggested the two candidates agree to campaign in some states together,
to attend joint town hall meetings and debate each other without a
moderator. McKinnon called the town hall meeting McCain's "best format" and said joint campaigning would test Obama's "claims that he wants a clean fight on the issues."
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said, "John McCain has repeatedly
encouraged these types of appearances with his opponents in the past,
but in order to extend all due respect to Sen. Clinton, we will look forward to welcoming the arrangements when the Democrats have actually chosen their nominee."
Obama said Saturday that he was open to the idea, should he become the nominee.
"I think that's a great idea," he told reporters after touring PV Powered, a solar energy company. "Obviously we would have to think through the logistics on that. But to the extent that I, should I be the nominee, if I have the opportunity to debate substantive issues before the voters with John McCain, that's something that I am going to welcome."
The Illinois senator also suggested McCain's relationship to the Keating Five savings-and-loan scandal was fair game during a general election. New Obama backer Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio brought up the Keating Five association as part of a string of attacks on the Arizona senator during his introduction of Obama yesterday in Albany but had dropped the reference by the time he delivered his second introduction that evening in Eugene. Obama was asked whether such comments fit into his idea of a positive campaign.
"Congressman DeFazio obviously delivered a speech that wasn't my speech," he began. "I don't have any doubt that John McCain's public record about issues that he's apologized for and written about is not germane to the presidency. You know, I was just asked previously about a whole host of issues and associations that were a lot more flimsy than John McCain's relationship to Keating Five. What I've said is, you know, I can't quarrel with the American people wanting to know more about that and me having to answer questions about that."
When asked whether he was ignoring Clinton and looking ahead to the general election as he campaigns in these final races, Obama suggested it was time to start focusing more on McCain.
"We only have six contests left in the Democratic primary," he said. "We are getting to the point where somebody is going to be the nominee; we're not going to have a lot of time to pivot. And John McCain's' been getting a free pass. For the last two months, he's been able to go on various tours and make assertions that I think are questionable, and it's important that we Democrats, both myself and Sen. Clinton remind our constituencies that that's the ultimate price -- win in November. And that's what I will continue to focus on."
And he said he hoped to campaign soon in Florida and Michigan and to seat their delegations: "We're going to be actively campaigning there, and we are going to try to go campaign there soon, and I think that we are going to make sure that the Michigan and Florida delegations are seated so that by the time we get to November I don't think that's what is going to be on voters' minds. I think what is going to be on voters' minds is whose got a better plan to help make sure that my retirement is secure or rebuild out manufacturing capacity in this country."
As he left the podium and headed back to his bus, Obama was asked to respond to a column by conservative Bob Novak who reported that his wife Michelle had nixed the idea of Hillary Clinton as a running mate. The senator joked that his wife did not talk to Bob Novak on a regular basis.
The press conference was held in part to hit McCain on energy issues. Obama criticized the Arizona senator again on his gas tax holiday proposal calling it a "classic Washington stunt" and slammed him for his opposition to taxes on the windfall profits of oil companies to help families, to make price gouging by oil companies a federal crime and to mandates ensuring more use of renewable energy.
"Barack Obama has no experience standing up to special interests in the energy sector, in fact he voted for the oil companies' sweetheart bill in the Senate," Bounds writes. "John McCain has been a champion for energy solutions, and he didn't support the loophole ridden, pork barrel energy bill written for the special interests like the one Barack Obama voted for and supported."
Obama heads to home to Chicago later today and will hold no public events tomorrow when he will celebrate Mother's Day with his family. He said he was not planning on going to church in order to spare the congregation the media circus.