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McCain Takes on Obama Over Public Financing

John McCain, R-Ariz., talks on his cell pone as he arrives for a rally in La Crosse, Wis., Friday, Feb. 15, 2008. (AP.)

By Perry Bacon Jr.
OSHKOSH, Wisc. -- Has the fund-raising juggernaut that is Barack Obama's campaign disarmed itself for the general election?

John McCain thinks so. Referring to comments Obama's campaign made last spring, when a spokesman said Obama would "aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly-financed general election," the Arizona senator told reporters Obama should "keep his word to the American people."

"If Senator Obama goes back on his commitment to the American people, then obviously we have to rethink our position," McCain said of public financing, in a press conference here following a town hall meeting.

The dispute reflects McCain's turn toward the general election and Obama, a potential opponent. But it also might have key implications for the election itself, should the two face each other. Under the public campaign financing system, after the two major parties officially nominate candidates at their conventions, each party's presidential nominee is eligible for $85 million from a taxpayer-financed fund -- if the candidates agree stop raising outside money.

Candidates have abided by these limits in the past, but no campaign has created the kind of fund-raising machine that Obama has. Based on his $32 million haul in January, he might be able to raise more than $85 million in the months between the Democratic convention and the November election, but more importantly, his fund-raising prowess could give him an advantage over McCain. Obama has been able to out-organize Clinton in many states in the primary process because of his superior fund-raising.

At press conference in Milwaukee today, Obama had said, "If I am the nominee, then I will make sure that our people talk to John McCain's people to find out if we are willing to abide by the same rules and regulations in respect to the general election."

But, he added, "it would be presumptuous of me to start saying now that I'm locking myself into something when I don't' even know if the other side is going to agree to it, and I'm not the nominee."

McCain aides, hearing of Obama's remarks, were not impressed. Mark Salter, a senior McCain adviser said "they're trying to weasel out" of the financing limits.

"Maybe he had his fingers crossed," Salter said of Obama.

Salter said that if Obama and McCain are the nominees, the McCain campaign would discuss how both sides would abide by financing limits but wondered "what would we need to negotiate?" He said the campaign finance rules were quite clear.

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 15, 2008; 4:45 PM ET
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Posted by: liynfbgts anpfobhx | April 16, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Nice job lying McCain. Let's stack those up next to your lies on Obama's Pakistan position, your lies about the fact that you're opposed to torture (voting for it last week), and your lies about your opposition to the Bush tax cuts.

You might have already lied more in the last 2 months than Dubya did in the last 7 years. Good job sir.

Posted by: Nissl | February 20, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Obama is the Messiah: Jesus, Buddha and Allah all rolled up into one. The Messiah does what he wants, at least until he's elected President, when he suddenly won't seem so Messiah-like.

Posted by: gutterdandy | February 20, 2008 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: djstates

Is flip flopping what Obama really means when he says he wants change?
:end quote

Is that just a rhetorical question or are you really searching for an answer?

Sorry, but I am a bit confused here.
:end quote

Don't apologize, just educate yourself by going to fair and balanced information sites like It is easy to be truly informed in the information age if real answers are what you are looking for.

Posted by: Absolute_0-K | February 18, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

It's amazing how Obama's story changes when you actually parse what he's saying:

Posted by: TheDameDomain | February 18, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Preserving presidential campaign funding is not the same as accepting it. Obama is too smart to give up an advantage if there is one. Funny how the candidate with the money this year is the anti-pac money taking Obama.

Posted by: jameschirico | February 17, 2008 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Who is Methings?


World behold:

RAT-The! :-)

Posted by: rat-the | February 17, 2008 7:59 PM | Report abuse

If Senator McCain is pushing this idea because he believes it is the right thing to do, then we would have seen his acceptance when Senator Obama proposed it lo these many months ago.

At that time, however, Senator McCain had no reason to believe the proposal would be to his advantage and therefore let it sit on the table untouched and unnoticed.

Now he sees the handwriting on the wall: the GOP and his candidacy for the White House are in serious jeopardy given the Democrat's huge advantage in amassing volunteers and money. His only hope for a level playing field is to get the Democratic Party and its nominee to agree to give up their advantage.

I don't see Senator McCain proposing this for the remainder of the primaries or for the 2012 election.

Methings I smell a rat on the Straight Talk Express.

Posted by: 33rdStreet | February 17, 2008 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Zukermand - I'll take "unprofessional behavior" over incompetence. You'd think you could actually take the trouble to read the article (the author's name is listed).


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 17, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

McCain's outrageously dishonest and hypocritical campaign shows that he cannot be trusted in any way shape or form. The wingnuts have him pegged: snake in the grass.

Posted by: mnjam | February 16, 2008 9:45 PM | Report abuse

Is Obama for affirmative action or does he think race based affirmative action needs to end? Is he for gun control or does he want to let people keep their guns? Does he want tighter regulation of the nuclear power industry after radioactive waste leaked in his district, or does he water down his legislation so much that it never passes? Does he support a woman's right to privacy and choice, or does he say "present" when legislation is up for a vote? Is he for public campaign financing or against it? Is flip flopping what Obama really means when he says he wants change? Sorry, but I am a bit confused here.

Posted by: djstates | February 16, 2008 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Obama should go with the government funding. There is no way...never matter how Messiah like Obama matter how much support (or lack of) McCain has in his party...that the Republican party will allow a democrat to get more private funding.

Posted by: badger3 | February 16, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Senator McCain(And hopefully his VP Mittster) are going to be running on a Platform that calls for a continued efforts against Radicalized Islam.

Senator, meet your opponent, "Madrassa Schooled" Barack Hussein Obasama.

Sic-Em! ;~)

Posted by: rat-the | February 16, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

With McCain pledging a loan on taking public financing in the primary and then slipping out of that, we know that he can't be trusted. Why would Obama trust McCain in the general election to stick to public financing? McCain just can't be trusted to live up to his word.

Posted by: goldie2 | February 16, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Obama's excuse is simple. With no way to anticipate, regulate, or stop the inevitable 527's, etc., that will attack Obama, he can't afford to be handcuffed by public financing limitations. So, while in spirit Obama agrees with public financing, unless McCain can guarantee stopping the outside attack ads, Obama will need to rely on the additional cash from donations to combat them and keep the playing field even.

Posted by: Eyzwidopn | February 16, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Obama's answer was clear. "Yes," he wrote. "If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election."

See it in the headlines,
You hear it ev'ry day.
They say they're gonna stop it,
But it doesn't go away.
They move it through Miami, sell it in L.A.,
They hide it up in Telluride,
I mean it's here to stay.
It's propping up the governments in Columbia and Peru,
You ask any (lobbyist) man,
He'll say There's nothin' we can do,
From the office of the President,
Right down to me and you, me and you.

Posted by: PhilTR | February 16, 2008 9:31 AM | Report abuse

McCain hasn't been nominated.

Posted by: LuckyKay | February 16, 2008 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Obama hasn't even been nominated.

Posted by: LuckyKay | February 16, 2008 7:54 AM | Report abuse

I hope BO can clean the stench left by the Republican congress and president.

Posted by: jameschirico | February 16, 2008 7:29 AM | Report abuse

McCain's position is priceless -- a Republican arguing for government funding for his campaign, rather than the "free market" of American citizens which Obama has masterfully tapped into. How hypocritical!

Posted by: grichardson1 | February 16, 2008 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: mark_in_austin | February 16, 2008 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Obama welcomes all contributors even these who can only afford 5 or 10 dollars. Many who are inspired to participate for the first time!

Obama's commitment to his supporters who want change is more important then McCain's
attempt to remove them from this election!

Posted by: cooday | February 15, 2008 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Let Obama win the Democratic nomination first, THEN he can discuss this with McCain. Public money or not, McCain will lose because the key conservative wing won't back him, and the independent voters will favor Obama. After the Clintonophiles get over Billary's defeat, they will support Obama in the general election.

Posted by: Quino | February 15, 2008 9:52 PM | Report abuse


If Obama can "risk" public campaign financing and McCain can't, why is McCain the one asking Obama to abide by his previous commitment?

Posted by: JakeD | February 15, 2008 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone, including Perry Bacon, look at the big picture? First, Obama is being finance by the public, more so than any other candidate, and more successfully than through a government program. Obama has more under $200 donors than anyone. Also, it won't endear McCain any more to conservatives to go with public/government campaign financing.

Second, Obama has more than more donors than McC - he has more volunteers! Can you just imagine groups of excited young voters going door to door, making millions of phone calls, waving millions of signs on the streets and off-ramps across the country - for McCain? Nope.

Obama can "risk" public campaign financing; McCain can't. He has to pay his campaign workers. We gather donations and fly around the country to help Obama. We sleep on strangers' couches, when we sleep at all, which we scarcely do in the 3 days leading to every caucus and election. That's just for the primary. Can you see us in the General? That's right, Bacon, you're trembling. Take a sedative and we'll wake you up when it's over.

And btw, I'm not a youth, not even fully physically-able, just young at heart thanks to Barack and Michelle.

Posted by: VCubed | February 15, 2008 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Is Obama going to use the old (Clinton) defense: "It depends what the definition of 'is' is"?

Posted by: JakeD | February 15, 2008 7:16 PM | Report abuse

If McCain ever figures out how to use the Web, maybe he can get millions of small contributions. Finance reform was meant to stop Big Money from Special Interests from buying the Candidates. No one anticipated the masterful use of internet-based social networks to generate large amounts of campaign dollars from individual voters. Too bad John, trapped in 20th century thinking...again!

Posted by: thebobbob | February 15, 2008 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone have a link to Obama and/or spokesman saying they would "aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly-financed general election"?

Posted by: JakeD | February 15, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Mr. BO doesnt need Public Financing as long as he has Opra. If she start thinking differently, since she is a good business woman, he is dead meat. And I do mean DEAD

Posted by: LOONYBIN2000 | February 15, 2008 6:23 PM | Report abuse

This is just a move to shake up the nerves.
Hey just found this...

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Posted by: fulotta | February 15, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Too much to ask that we get a mention of McCain backing out of public financing for the primary? Is that to McMavericky?

On top of that, you don't even offer up a quote where Barack supposedly agrees to take public financing...

Posted by: moreaxe | February 15, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

John McCain is in a luxury position now, and if this is all he can muster, than the web statistics are true:

Obama vs. McCain-

Posted by: davidmwe | February 15, 2008 5:53 PM | Report abuse

This is Bacon Jr.. The person who wrote the Obama muslim lie.. So he is biased Moreaxe he forgot to include that bit. I recall McCain saying that too..

Posted by: TennGurl | February 15, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I meant "Mr Bacon", although the same holds true for Mr Balz.

Posted by: zukermand | February 15, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

From a recent NY times article:

"Mr. McCain's advisers said that the candidate, despite his signature legislative efforts to restrict the money spent on political campaigns, would not accept public financing and spending limits for this year's general campaign."

Looks like the straight talk express ran aground again and the media fails to report it. Back to business as usual. Maybe you can slip the "maverick" modifier in there a few times too.

I guess it's also too much to ask that you mention that Mr. McCain also recently took out a loan using a fundraising list as collateral (something a non-politician would not be able to do), calling into question whether or not Mr. McCain was using his position as a sitting Senator for fundraising in direct violation of McCain-Feingold.

Posted by: moreaxe | February 15, 2008 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Obama fans take note, while Mr Balz is perfectly comfortable supporting your candidate in a primary with Sen Clinton, he, and others like him, will be less accommodating in a general with Mr McCain. You may find his unprofessional behavior a double edged sword.

Posted by: zukermand | February 15, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

GTH, Baby Burner-

You are just petulent because even with the old fatcat republican riches won't get you within daylight of what Senator Obama is collecting.

Posted by: kase | February 15, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse

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