Candidate visits have value

As quickly as it arrived, the Barack Obama campaign moved on, leaving behind in Southern Oregon some excited Obama fans who got the chance to see their candidate up close, and a renewed interest in the presidential race.

That interest, reflected in posts on the Mail Tribune's online forums and in a surge of letters to the editor received after the weekend, is a good thing, whether you're a supporter of Obama, Hillary Clinton or John McCain.

There will be those who mutter about the cost of local law enforcement helping with security and the brief disruption of some traffic. But honestly, how often does a community this size get to host a presidential candidate?

Presidential campaigns, no matter how closely contested, tend to seem like far-away affairs, blurring together with the other news on the national scene. The give and take between the candidates, the debates over issues hardly seem relevant to everyday life in Medford, Ore.

But the chance to see a presidential contender up close in one's own town makes the process seem much more real. That goes for those fortunate enough to snag tickets and see the candidate in person, and for those who watched the speech live on local television.

Even if the candidate delivers essentially the same stump speech he or she delivered the day before in another city, the same one that will be given in yet another city tomorrow or next week, it's important that voters feel the candidate is speaking to them, not to nameless voters somewhere else.

The Clinton campaign has vowed to visit Oregon soon, and a spokesman said either Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton or both will make a stop in Southern Oregon.

McCain is unlikely to campaign in Oregon before the primary because he has the Republican nomination virtually sewn up, but it's likely he will pay a visit before the general election in November.

The Obama campaign has made a point of reaching out to local news media here and elsewhere — an unusual tactic for a national campaign but a welcome one. Obama's 10-minute interview with this newspaper, and similar one-on-one sessions with Oregon journalists upstate, gave readers the opportunity to hear the candidate respond to issues important to Oregon and its residents.

We encourage the other candidates to provide similar access to local media in the interest of fully informing voters and helping them choose the person who will lead the United States and the world for the next four years.

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