Presidential debates are usually carefully orchestrated, with high-profile surrogates negotiating everything from the location and audience to the color of the backdrop. Republican John McCain wants to change that.
This morning, in a letter to Democrat Barack Obama, he proposed a series of town meetings starting next week in New York City.
"I propose that these town hall meetings be as free from the regimented trappings, rules and spectacle of formal debates as possible," he wrote. "And that we pledge to the American people we will not allow the idea to die on the negotiation table as our campaigns work out the details."
McCain said he envisions weekly meetings around the country until the Democratic convention starts in late August. He suggested he and Obama fly together to the first meeting "As a symbolically important act embracing the politics of civility."
He said he modeled the idea on an a 1963 agreement between President Kennedy and Republican Barry Goldwater. Kennedy's assassination, of course, ended the possibility.
McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker says there's "an agreement, in spirit, between the McCain and Obama campaigns to participate in joint town hall appearances. Earlier this afternoon, the respective campaign managers spoke; they both expressed a commitment to raising the level of dialogue, and they will be in close contact as we work together to make this idea a reality."
Obama's campaign returns to Charlottte Thursday with its National Voter Registration Drive. Campaign workers and volunteers will meet at Obama's old headquarters at 7 p.m. at 1523 Elizabeth Ave.