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John McCain agrees with Web group on opening debates more; Barack Obama silent

October 3, 2008 |  3:17 am

The campaign of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin has endorsed a proposal by a diverse coalition of Internet pioneers to drastically change some aspects of the current string of presidential campaign debates.

In a Thursday letter signed by McCain campaign general counsel Trevor Potter to the Open Debate Coalition, the Republican's campaign says:

"The McCain-Palin campaign agrees with you that the debates are ultimately for the benefit of the American people ... we support your suggestion that the public play a role in selecting the questions to be asked."

"We also believe that Americans -- including the campaigns themselves -- should be able to 'debate the debates' using all available tools on the Internet and elsewhere, including blogs, web-video services and other means."

Potter also notes that the next presidential debate is Tuesday in Nashville, a town hall format favored by McCain because the questions come directly from the audience free of media filter.

Potter recalls that the Arizona senator proposed a series of at least 10 such town hall sessions between the two major party candidates during the summer, but Obama ultimately rejected that opportunity.

As The Ticket reported exclusively the other day, the debate openness group sought freedom from copyright restrictions on all debate-related materials and a system to allow regular Americans to submit and winnow through questions for the candidates, not leaving that to the hosting media.

To drive home its agreement with the coalition, the McCain campaign copied its letter to the co-chairmen of the Commission on Presidential Debates, Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul Kirk, both former national party chairmen.

Ironic that the GOP campaign, which has taken some PR hits, especially McCain himself, for being allegedly less tech-savvy than the campaign of Barack Obama, would be first to respond and agree with the new openness coalition.

Its members include Craig Newmark, founder of CraigsList; Lawrence Lessig, a law professor; Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos and Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit.com.

A coalition source said it was still waiting to hear officially from Obama's campaign. A complete text of the McCain letter is available here.

--Andrew Malcolm

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