ABC News’ Ron Claiborne and Sunlen Miller report: The McCain campaign is eager to engage in a series of unconventional joint forums with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., as soon as June if Obama emerges as the Democratic presidential nominee.
Charles Black, an advisor to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., suggested a number of town hall-style debates with the candidates sharing the stage and fielding questions from voters in the audience. The events would not necessarily involve a moderator or taking questions from reporters as has usually been the format for the dozens of Democratic and Republican debates over the last year.
The New York Times reported Sunday that the idea was "floated" by the McCain campaign. Black said he was not sure how it came up or who brought it but. Obama said Saturday it was a "great idea."
There will be no formal discussions until the Democratic race is settled, however.
"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. (Hillary) Clinton, we will look forward to welcoming the arrangements when the Democrats have actually chosen their nominee," said Brooke Buchanan, Mcain’s traveling national press secretary.
McCain is comfortable in and experienced with the town-hall meeting format. He is much more adept at the free-flowing exchange with voters than he is delivering formal speeches. He held more than 100 such events in New Hampshire alone leading up to the January primary.
At a press availability Saturday in Bend, Ore., Obama confirmed that he would be open to the townhall/debates that McCain’s advisors have suggested.
"I think that’s a great idea," he said. "Obviously we’d have to think through the logistics on this but to the extent that — should I be the nominee — if I have the opportunity to debate substantive issues before the voters with John McCain, that’s something I’m going to welcome."