More On Campaign Finance

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Speaking of keeping track of donations, the NYT has turned on Obama on this subject, expressing cautious admiration for McCain and chiding Obama.

Campaign finance is one of the areas where McCain is hoping to use Obama’s message of post-partisanship as a lever to bring the candidates closer together rather than farther apart: McCain’s advisers recognize that the GOP nom would benefit greatly from being seen as more like Obama rather than more like the president. This is not to say they want the two to be indistinguishable — we’ve already seen a preview of how hard they’ll hammer at his “inexperience.” Instead, they want cast Obama and McCain as apples to Bush’s orange (though “uglyfruit” is probably a more accurate symbol). To that end, they have made it clear to the White House — and to reporters, and they hope to voters — that McCain does not want to campaign with the president. (I’ve even heard of plans to keep Bush away from the convention.) McCain does want to campaign with Obama. He’s already proposed a series of pre-convention joint town halls; this Sunday, Lindsey Graham suggested that the two visit Iraq together, an idea that must of have had its roots in McCain’s weekend pow-wow with strategists and supporters. I’ve even heard staffers speculate on the feasibility of the two senators actually traveling together during the summer for a bipartisan “Straight Talk Express.”

Obama’s lack of accessibility to the press has been one of the more traditional aspects of his campaign and McCain staffers have agonized for months about how to get voters (and the press) to see that as a sign of Obama’s insincerity when it comes to a “new kind of politics.” Inviting him to co-headline the marathon gab sessions that McCain favors could do exactly that, either if he declines or if he accepts but turns out to be less adept than his elder at parrying with reporters.

Indeed, McCain’s people see little downside to the proposition — except maybe at how a bus’s natural lighting might make the age difference seem even more drastic. I think, however, they might be over estimating just how difficult the press are to woo. McCain is funny and charming, but reporters fall for him for reasons more prosaic than charisma. The flattery of his attention is enough. Obama engaging with them in the same way would eliminate McCain’s advantage, and before you yell at me for making this all about appearances and not actual policy think about it this way: Campaigning together, and in the same style, would make comparing the superficial aspects of campaigns pointless. You can’t report on McCain’s access versus Obama’s rock-star crowds if they each provide both. You might actually have to write about issues.

The prospect of such a joint campaign excites me as a journalist, and I think even as an American.