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“The One” Declares Town Hall Format Unworthy Of His Time…

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Barack Obama on Saturday backed away from rival John McCain’s challenge for a series of joint appearances before the political conventions, agreeing only to the standard three debates in the fall.

In a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said the short period between the last political convention and the first proposed debate made it likely that the commission-sponsored debates would be the only ones in the fall.

“We’ve committed to the three debates on the table,” campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Saturday in an interview. “It’s likely they will be the three appearances by the candidates this fall.”

A day after Obama clinched the Democratic nomination in early June, McCain challenged Obama to a series of 10 town hall meetings with voters in the months leading up to the conventions. The candidates’ campaigns began negotiations, telling reporters that they agreed in spirit to the joint appearances.

But when the idea first came up from the McCain campaign that May, Obama was still battling Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Obama said then: “Obviously, we would have to think through the logistics on that, but … if I have the opportunity to debate substantive issues before the voters with John McCain, that’s something that I am going to welcome.”

In June, Plouffe had suggested Obama-McCain meetings more along the lines of the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates. In 1858, during Abraham Lincoln’s Senate campaign against Stephen Douglas, the candidates met seven times across Illinois. One spoke for an hour, the other for an hour and a half, and the first was allowed a half-hour rebuttal.

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