NEW YORK -- John McCain had a national audience for his town-hall meeting tonight, but his populist message appeared to deliver the hardest hit to the local crowd: Wall Street.
At a town-hall meeting in Federal Hall in Lower Manhattan, across the street from the New York Stock Exchange, McCain proposed "a thorough and complete investigation of speculators" in the energy industry and "a whole lot more transparency and consequently oversight" in "the whole international financial system."
In addition, McCain continued to mock academics who have dismissed the thinking behind his plan for a summertime gas-tax holiday. "I trust the people and not the so-called economists to give the American people a little relief," McCain said, to no applause from a crowd largely dressed like bankers.
But McCain had a broader audience tonight, likely the largest yet for one of his signature free-for-all question-and-answer periods: a live broadcast on the Fox News Channel. McCain's campaign had repeatedly invited Barack Obama to join him for the evening's event as the first in a series of ten joint town-hall appearances proposed by McCain.
Yet Obama did not appear, and the McCain campaign chose not to put up an empty chair in their rival's place. Despite television-friendly lighting and a more august venue -- the neo-classical rotunda where George Washington was inaugurated as president -- than most of the high-school gyms and hotel ballrooms on his schedule, the event came off as a typical McCain town hall. Voters' questions concerned English-only education, Supreme Court justices, and McCain’s seeming inability to connect with young voters.
"I think this town-hall meeting probably would have been a little bit more interesting tonight if Senator Obama had accepted my request," McCain said.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.