Frustrated with the volume of interest group forums and non-party sponsored debates, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign manager has put his foot down: Obama won't attend any more debates that aren't sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee, and he won't accept any more invitations to speak at candidate forums.

In a memo the campaign will post on its website shortly, campaign manager David Plouffe writes that Obama has already spoken at 19 different candidate forums and has participated in seven full debates and is committed to attending a total of fifteen debates.

"Unfortunately, we simply cannot run the kind of campaign we want and need to, engaging with voters in the early states and February 5, if our schedule is dictated by dozens of forums and debates," Plouffe writes. "Ultimately, the one group left out of the current schedule is the voters and they are the ones who ask the toughest questions and most deserve to have those questions answered face to face."

Each forum requires the campaign to carve out hours of preparation time and yield its control over the schedule. Candidates refuse forum invitations at their peril, and Obama risks alienating some of his party's more potent interest groups, going forward.

In his memo, Plouffe acknowledges as much.

Many friends and terrific organizations are sponsoring or planning to sponsor debates and forums. So this is not an easy decision for us to execute. But it simply won’t work to navigate this one by one. We felt we needed to make our approach clear and consistent.



About Obama's decision today, there may well be some political charges lobbed by opponents, but it's true enough that Plouffe, Obama and Obama's chief stategist, David Axelrod, have been itching to announce this decision for a month or so. Plouffe makes sure to mention that Obama "was scored the clear winner by undecided voters in South Carolina and New Hampshire," a sentence that innoculates Obama from charges that he is afraid to debate or peforms poorly in them.

Plouffe's full memo is after the jump.

THE PLOUFFE MEMO

As we head into the fall, the campaign is entering a new more engaged phase that will give voters an even greater sense of Barack’s message of change and require the campaign to make decisions that balance the important role of debates and maximize time to run the kind of campaign we need to.

We have just been thru a period of three debates/forums in six days and the outlook for the future holds more of the same. And, because of likely calendar movement, once we get past Labor Day the Iowa caucuses are less than 120 days away.



So far, Barack has attended seven Democratic debates and nineteen candidate forums. There are five remaining sanctioned DNC debates, which we are committed to attend and two Iowa debates normally held in January, which are being held in December, which we are also committed to attend. We will also be attending the Univision debate in Florida on September 9. This means that by the end of this year, Obama will have participated in a total of 15 Democratic debates.



The debates have been important moments for our campaign, demonstrating clearly that Barack Obama is the candidate who will bring about the greatest change to our broken politics. Looking at the first sanctioned DNC debate in South Carolina, Obama was scored the clear winner by undecided voters in South Carolina and New Hampshire.



Unfortunately, we simply cannot run the kind of campaign we want and need to, engaging with voters in the early states and February 5, if our schedule is dictated by dozens of forums and debates. Ultimately, the one group left out of the current schedule is the voters and they are the ones who ask the toughest questions and most deserve to have those questions answered face to face.



Therefore, after this week, we will only be attending the five DNC debates through the sanctioning period of December 10, Univision, and the two Iowa debates previously mentioned. Candidate forums – where candidates appear sequentially will be considered, but we are unlikely to accept many of these. Instead, Barack will spend his time answering questions directly from voters in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and elsewhere. We simply cannot continue to hopscotch from forum to forum and run a campaign true to the bottom up movement for change that propelled Barack into this race.



After the sanctioning period, there will undoubtedly be a large number of debates scheduled in the early states and in February 5 states. We will make decisions on those as we get closer, but will clearly be doing a healthy number of debates after the sanctioning period.



Many friends and terrific organizations are sponsoring or planning to sponsor debates and forums. So this is not an easy decision for us to execute. But it simply won’t work to navigate this one by one. We felt we needed to make our approach clear and consistent.



I think this approach will be better for the voters and the campaign.



David

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