A commenter at the Plank has another reason why dismissing John McCain's town hall idea was a missed opportunity for Barack Obama (we discussed this yesterday): it would have distracted attention away from all the attacks that conventional wisdom says are dragging down Obama's poll numbers.
In 2004, the Republicans used the summer lull of non-news to ceaselessly hammer out the trivia of character assassination, and it worked. They're trying it again now... If Obama had agreed to a series of townhall debates, those encounters would have sucked up all the attention, and we wouldnt have had the news vacuum in which rumours and slander thrive...
I thought Obama should have agreed to the townhall debates even if it *had* been strategically disadvantageous, just because it would have been good for political culture and discourse, for the country basically. But even on a strategic level, participation would have escaped Obama the sordid mess he's confronting now.