The debate rages at the Standard, if two guys being in heated agreement albeit for different reasons qualifies as a “debate.” Dean Barnett thinks Obama’s a “weak extemporaneous speaker” who “does poorly at debates,” which I think wildly overstates the Lamb’s deficiencies sans script. True, he’s noticeably better with the ‘prompter — contra McCain, who’s better off the cuff than with his verbose prepared statements — but that’s because Obama’s speeches are exceptionally good, not because his impromptu statements are exceptionally bad. His joking about Hillary as Annie Oakley a few weeks ago or the stiltedness of his opponents a few months ago when they were asked what their biggest weakness was seemed extemporaneous to me, yet played very well. If Dean thinks he’s getting a walkover here, he’s kidding himself. Stephen Hayes likes the town hall idea for a different reason, that it’ll give Obama more opportunities to run off at the mouth and blunder into Bittergate-type statements that can be used against him. That’s fine, but after 21 debates with Hillary and god knows how many solo town halls he’s held over the past 15 months, my feeling about it is the same as my feeling about an eruption of McCain’s temper: If it was going to happen, it would have happened by now.
Ix-nay on the town halls, then? No. The real reason this is a good idea is to let Maverick share the spotlight that’ll follow Obama around from now until Election Day. We’re going to get killed on advertising and we’re going to get killed on free media coverage; anything we can do to reduce that gap is all to the good, and the spectacle of joint campaigning would certainly reduce it. In fact, given how comfortable McCain is in the town hall format, this is practically like playing the Super Bowl on his home field. Exit question: Anyone think this isn’t a good idea?
Update (Ed): I highly doubt David Axelrod would allow Obama to get into this kind of debate format — and so it would behoove McCain to start loudly demanding them. Obama got treated with kid gloves throughout most of those 21 debates, even by his opponents, who focused their efforts on Hillary instead. Only when it got down to the two of them did Obama get any kind of tough questioning, and when he did, Obama tended to fall apart
McCain isn’t as good at delivering a speech, but he does well in town-hall debates. He thinks quickly and has a lot more experience to bolster him on the stump. He would make Obama look like the rookie he is, and as Obama’s refusal to debate Hillary shows, his team knows it. If McCain presses him for a series of debates and Obama refuses, it will look even better.