Obama’s still playing hard to get in response to McCain’s Town Hall debate proposal — and it’s generating a lot of negative PR from commentators pointing out that he was the candidate who promised to change the political process. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of talk about exactly how much skyrocketing petrol prices will push the US into flipping the switch on off-shore drilling.

Obama’s still non-committal on “Town Hall” debates. John McCain’s public invitation to Barack Obama to appear with him in a series of Town Hall debates across the nation looks set to boil down to justone debate, if it happens at all. Real Clear Politics says the Obama campaign appears to have ended discussions with the McCain side over the proposal, and warns that Obama may come off worse for turning down the offer.

The NY Daily News says Obama’s agreed to just one Town Hall debate with McCain – a much watered down proposal to the 10 debates suggested by McCain originally.

The energy crisis. The Washington Post editorial says the ‘silver lining’ of skyrocketing petrol prices is that it’s sparked a national debate on America’s energy security. “President Bush and John McCain have given the impression that relief for drivers lies in off-shore drilling and the construction of nuclear power plants”… while the Obama campaign is taking the line “We cannot drill our way out of this energy crisis”.

While there’s been a fair bit of noise in the media saying that the American public has warmed to the idea of allowing off-shore drilling, the Grist environmental blog points out that the Rasmussem Reports poll showing 67% support offshore drilling was “almost push polling”:

‘The first question they asked: ‘How concerned are you about rising gas and energy prices?’ Pretty much everybody is concerned. Duh. But in a flawed poll, almost a push poll, the point of the first question is to get people thinking about the pain of gasoline prices, rather than, say, the coastal environment or global warming.

Second question: ‘In order to reduce the price of gas, should drilling be allowed in offshore oil wells off the coasts of California, Florida, and other states?’

Has Obama played the race card? Townhall.com blogger Hugh Hewitt says Obama has played the race card and unfairly predicted that the McCain campaign would attack him based on his race. He quotes a speech in Florida in which Obama said “We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?”

Dirty tricks campaign. A columnist in the NY Daily News describes the campaign so far as just more of the old tricks: “The campaign is already a distressing example of negative-politics-as-usual. Each day brings withering attacks and counterattacks as both candidates break their promises to wage a different kind of contest.” One of the key opportunities to cut the carping and take the debate to the people was the Town Hall debate proposal, an opportunity which may be lost, it points out.

The VP fluff. A comment piece in the NYT pokes holes in the speculation about vice presidential nominees, pointing out that the column inches are fuelled by speculation. Case in point? Former Senator Sam Nunn, who’s been tipped as a potential VP for each election bar one since 1984.

“There are the real lists, bluff lists and lists of politicians who make a big show of saying they don’t want to be on the list even though they never were or would have been.”

Don’t mention gay marriage. We may have missed Barack Obama or John McCain’s statements about the fact that California began performing the USA’s first legal gay marriages last week, but we doubt it. Historically, McCain has opposed gay marriage, but what a shame the Obama campaign couldn’t say something in support of it. Obama’s stand has been that gay marriage is a state matter, but that he’s personally opposed to it.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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