There are just over 48 hours until the first scheduled presidential debate but the whole event may be up in the air with the surprise announcement from John McCain that he is suspending his campaign and asking for the debate to be postponed while Congress hammers out a Wall Street bailout plan.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced in a statement that it's game on as far as they are concerned tonight:
"The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is moving forward with its plan for the first presidential debate at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss. this Friday, September 26. The plans for this forum have been underway for more than a year and a half. The CPD's mission is to provide a forum in which the American public has an opportunity to hear the leading candidates for the president of the United States debate the critical issues facing the nation. We believe the public will be well served by having all of the debates go forward as scheduled."
As the story develops, some key points on where things stand:
Should the debate go forward?
McCain: No. "I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the commission on presidential debates to delay Friday night's debate until we have taken action to address this crisis." Senior Aide Mark Salter said McCain would participate in the debate if Congress passed an agreement by Friday morning.
Obama: Yes. "I believe that we should continue to have the debate…It's my belief that this is exact time when the American people need to hear form the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsibly for dealing with this mess and I think that it is going to be part of the president's job to deal with more than one thing at once."
Suspend campaign events?
McCain: Will deliver his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative Thursday morning but will not appear on The Late Show with David Letterman Wednesday night. McCain had no campaign events scheduled for Thursday.
Obama: Had no campaign events scheduled between now and Friday's debate Return to Washington?
McCain: Announced he will return to Washington after his CGI speech. A Democrat tells ABC News' Jake Tapper that in a phone call late this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told McCain that it would NOT be helpful for him to come back to Washington, DC, to work on the Wall Street bailout bill.
Obama: Will stay in Florida for the time being and will NOT return to Washington unless asked by Congressional leadership and it is not the time to infuse Capitol Hill with presidential politics. "I've told the leadership in congress is that if I can be helpful then I am prepared to be anywhere at anytime."
Voting on the bailout plan as it stands?
Neither candidate has indicated yet how they would vote but a senior McCain campaign official told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that the "Bush package is dead."
Friday's debate will focus on foreign policy, the issue that John McCain has consistently polled higher than Barack Obama on through this general election season. This debate was seen as a chance for McCain to start off with a solid performance on a familiar topic and perhaps get a game changing moment out of it. With national polls showing his convention bounce erased and state polls showing Obama ahead in several key battleground states, McCain could use the debate to give a burst of momentum and start off this next three week period with some wind at his back.
(And is it perhaps a little bit ironic that the candidate who called for weekly debates is the one to say the first match-up should be postponed?)
What about the Univ. of Mississippi, the host of Friday's debate?
ABC News' Tahman Bradley reports that a senior University of Mississippi official said cancelling the debate would be "devastating" for the university which has already invested millions in preparation for the debate.
Andrew Mullins, special assistant to university Chancellor Robert Khayat, told Bradley that the Ole Miss campus has been transformed to accommodate the candidates and the press. Road blocks are in place on campus and in the community and the debate television set for the candidates has already been constructed. He said the university has spent roughly five and half million dollars getting ready for the debate.
Could the university hold a debate at a later date? Mullins couldn't say but for now, says the university is proceeding like they're still having the debate until the commission makes a decision per instructions from the debate commission.
Bush Prime Time Address on Economy
President Bush will address the nation tonight at 9:01pm ET from the East Room of the White House and will make clear that when it comes to the economic bailout plan the "costs of not acting are far greater than the costs of acting," ABC News' George Stephanopoulos reports.
President Bush will speak for 12-14 minutes and reach out to both parties with a non-partisan tone. Stephanopoulos reports that the address has been carefully timed. Says the senior official, "This is a bullet you only fire once."
More from Stephanopoulos: "By the time Bush speaks, the White House hopes to have a package ready for a vote. The White House is hopeful, but not convinced, the votes are there for passage -- they hope the president's speech puts votes over the top in their favor."
Tivo Alert! Tune into World News with Charles Gibson tonight for an exclusive joint interview with former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Following a surprise appearance today at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, Gibson sat down with the two, who have partnered on humanitarian efforts in the past, and now are collaborating on a new disaster relief program to aid those affected by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Gibson talked to the former presidents about the state of the presidential race and the turmoil facing the American economy.
"Now I know why a lot of America is crazy about you."
--Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
On the campaign front. . .
-- 8:45 am ET – Addresses Clinton Global Initiative in NY, NY.
-- Morning – Attends Clinton Global Initiative NY, NY.
-- No Public Events - Preparing for Friday's debate in Florida
-- 10:30 am ET – Holds Rally in Greensburg, PA.
-- 2:30 pm ET - Holds Rally in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
At the White House. . .
-- No public events.
POLITICAL NEWS STORIES ON ABCNEWS.COM
ABC News' Jennifer Parker: Economic Woes Edge Obama Over McCain LINK
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos: 'This is a Bullet You Only Fire Once' LINK
ABC News' Gary Langer: Poll: Economic Discontent Boosts Barack Obama Over John McCain LINK
ABC News' George Stephanopoulos and Rick Klein: McCain: Scrap Friday Debate for Bailout; Obama Camp: 'The Debate is On' LINK
ABC News' Kate Snow: Palin Talks; Pakistan President Impressed By Alaska Gov. LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Independent Group Running TV Ad in Colorado Accusing Obama of Attacking McCain's War Wounds LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: When did John McCain Become More Liberal than Barney Frank on Executive Compensation? LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Oh, That Joe! (No. 18 in a Series) -- Biden Loves the Jews, Says McCain Hates the Religious Right LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: While On Ticket that Has Opted Out of Federal Matching Funds, Biden Seeks Them for Failed Presidential Campaign LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Dem Lawmaker's Son's Pad Searched in Palin Hacking Investigation LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Freddie Got Fingered LINK
ABC News' Jake Tapper: Palin-drome LINK
ABC News' Judy Keen: Illinois Expects Obama to Make a Big Impact LINK
POLITICAL VIDEO ON ABCNEWS.COM
McCain Suspends Campaign for Bailout
McCain calls to scrap debate and will return to D.C. to work on bailout plan. LINK
Will the Numbers Crown a Candidate?
As the economy takes the spotlight, a new poll reveals a big jump for Sen. Obama. LINK
McCain Won't Commit to Paulson Plan
Sen. McCain has not announced public ally whether he will vote for the bailout. LINK
Biden Hits McCain on Foreign Policy
Biden says the U.S. must lead by power of example, not the example of our power. LINK
Women Go for the Palin Look
Fashion is all about the eyeglasses as the governor's signature frames take off. LINK
Hasselbeck: Palin Shouldn't Be Forced
"View" ladies discuss McCain camp's efforts to keep veep pick from media. LINK
Teaching Kids to Vote
Program helps young students understand their role as citizens. LINK
Living in Illinois
A look at a state with an unemployment rate far above the national average. LINK
A Late-Night Laugh
See what the late-night comedians are joking about. LINK
The Bottom Line On Voter Shifts
George Stephanopoulos discusses large swings in the voters' opinions. LINK
Congress in a Stalemate
The Bush administration and Congress continue to battle over the AIG bailout. LINK
Thomas Friedman on Our Finances
The author of "Hot, Flat and Crowded" discusses America's financial woes. LINK
Kimmel: Bush's Bad Day at the U.N.
Jimmy shows the president getting no respect during his U.N. address. LINK
McCain Holds Key Vote on Economy
If John McCain as a GOP senator opposes the bailout bill, it will likely die. LINK
Stephanopoulos on McCain's Vote
Republicans and Democrats agree on some changes to the proposed bailout plan. LINK
The Best Way to Vote
A look at how Maryland plans to handle the expected record voter turnout. LINK