Obama Open to Town Hall Debates With McCain

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., hinted Wednesday he's open to engaging Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in a series of nontraditional presidential debates.

"Oh, we're definitely going to be doing some town hall debates," the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee told ABC "World News" anchor Charlie Gibson.

Indicating he's not prepared to start debating McCain next week, as McCain's campaign had formally requested, Obama expressed interest in going head to head with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee as soon as his campaign fully pivots toward the general election.

"I look forward to, you know, having more than just the three traditional debates that we've seen in recent presidential contests," he said.


Obama did, however, caution that both campaigns would have to figure out the timing.

What to do About Clinton

In the more immediate future, Obama admitted he will tread carefully in the coming days and weeks as more is learned about exactly what Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., wants. "I think it's very important for me to meet with her and talk to her about how we move this party forward."

Pressed over whether he needs to make a decision immediately about offering Clinton the vice presidential nod, Obama punted. "I haven't heard directly from her, you know, how she wants to move forward. I -- my main goal is to make sure that the party is unified," said Obama.


He showered his nomination rival with high praise as an "extraordinarily capable and tenacious person."

Obama was gracious when asked if he felt slighted that Clinton did not acknowledge that he had secured the Democratic nomination, in her speech on Tuesday.

"This is a tough thing for all of us," he said. "And to, you know, come as close as Sen. Clinton did and then not get the nomination, I think is something that has to be processed. But I think very highly of Sen. Clinton and her commitment to making this country better. And so, I'm confident that we're going to be unified this November."

Pivoting Toward the General Election


On Wednesday, Obama announced the formation of a vice presidential search committee, as he builds his infrastructure for the general election. One general election issue that has dogged Obama for several months is his apparent reversal of his pledge to use public money for the general election campaign. In the Gibson interview, Obama was noncommittal about using public money.

"I've already expressed concerns before about the capacity of third parties to affect the campaign process with a whole lot of money and a lot of resources," said Obama. "We've already seen Web sites developed in which I'm being attacked, and are purportedly not coordinated with John McCain, so we've got to work out -- and I've said this from the start -- I'm interested in making sure that we keep this process intact, but what I'm not going to do is unilaterally disarm and allow hundreds of millions or tens of millions of dollars worth of attack ads raining down on my head from outside groups."


In September 2007, Obama checked 'yes' on a questionnaire saying that he would forgo private funding in the general election if his major opponent agreed to do the same thing.

Obama listed his top three issues headed into the general election: Iraq, the economy and universal health care.

He articulated his usual fire for McCain.

"John McCain has a vision that is very similar to George Bush's. He wants to continue in Iraq on the current course," he said.

"John McCain's main economic platform is to continue the Bush tax cuts and then to add $300 billion worth of corporate tax breaks that aren't paid for."


Obama indicated he's likely to travel to Iraq in the coming months.

First Black Major Party Nominee

Obama admitted that he has not fully grasped the enormity of his accomplishment, becoming the first black man to secure the Democratic presidential nomination. "There's something very humbling about this whole process. You know, you realize there are so many wonderful people in this country who are working so hard on behalf of their families and on behalf of their hopes and their dreams."

For Obama's young daughters, the historic nature of a black man becoming the standard bearer of a political party has had little impact, the candidate said.

"Michelle had a conversation with Malia, whose our 9-year-old, soon to be 10-year-old," Obama told Gibson, referring to his wife and daughter. "And Michelle brought this up, and she said, 'you know, Daddy's about to be nominated for the presidency and he'll be the first African American ever to have that happen,' and Malia said, 'Well, that doesn't surprise me.'"

The senator explained that his daughter's nonchalant attitude about the nomination is proof the country has made great progress.

"You could tell that there wasn't that emotional impact on her because she has grown up in this environment where she can take it for granted -- in the same way that she can take for granted that a woman is running for president, and is an incredibly capable political figure," he said.

"And the fact that they're taking it for granted is a measure of progress. It says something really good about America."