The Note: The Gambler

"Whatever the risk, Senators McCain and Obama were all-in by the end of the day Wednesday," Cooper writes. "The politics are especially complex for Mr. McCain, who took the bigger gamble earlier in the day by assertively claiming a leadership role."

Does anyone think that bringing campaigns into the negotiating room will help negotiations? And do negotiators need the fate of the first presidential debate added to the agenda?

"It was unclear whether the return of Sens. McCain and Obama to the capital would provide the jolt needed to reach a bipartisan deal that gives cover to politicians of both parties. And it was unclear who would benefit most from the new jockeying between the presidential contenders," The Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler, Elizabeth Holmes and Christopher Cooper report.

"Mr. McCain's actions not only cast doubt on whether the highly anticipated debate would come off, but also thrust an unpredictable new element into the negotiations for the bailout, with some Democrats warning that Mr. McCain's intervention could derail progress being made on the rescue package," Elisabeth Bumiller and Jeff Zeleny report in The New York Times.

"The fast-moving developments sent behind-the-scenes talks on Capitol Hill colliding with a fierce presidential campaign now heading into its final five weeks," Susan Page and Kathy Kiely write for USA Today. "McCain's move -- praised by some Republicans as a sign of leadership, ridiculed by Democrats as grandstanding -- was a gamble that might recast a slipping campaign. It also could affect what is likely to be the biggest bailout in U.S. history."

But things are close: "We're heading towards a deal today," ABC's George Stephanopoulos reported on "Good Morning America" Thursday. "You've got so many of the major players now bought into the idea that you have to have a solution. . . . If the framework is put into place today, there will be a debate tomorrow."

As negotiations resume on the Hill Thursday morning, it's looking good: "Senior lawmakers and Bush administration officials have cleared away key obstacles to a deal on the unprecedented rescue, agreeing to include widely supported limits on pay packages for executives whose companies benefit," the AP's Julie Hirschfeld Davis reports.

Whether or not a deal happens Thursday, McCain was not operating from a position of strength here: Recall that the campaign's message earlier in the day was focused on why the new ABC News/Washington Post poll showing Obama plus-9 (and plus-24 on the economy) was wrong.

"It reflects not only the deep concerns of Republican and Democratic leaders about the grave state of the economy, but also the shifting dynamics in a presidential contest that polls suggest has swung in Obama's favor," Scott Helman reports in The Boston Globe. "Voters' focus on the Wall Street crisis and the economy -- long an advantage for Obama -- has helped give him an edge this week nationally and in key battleground states."

"It's the longest Hail Mary pass in the history of either football or Marys," said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

"Make no mistake: there is a reason that the guy behind in the polls did this," Howard Wolfson blogs for The New Republic.

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