The Note: The Gambler

Is the gambler trying to walk (or run) away? "It's hard to imagine that the most useful thing for everyone involved wouldn't be to hear, in clear terms, and at length, just what McCain and Obama think about the whole mess," Todd Purdum writes for Vanity Fair.

David Letterman (stood up, and playing pundit): "Suspending it because there's an economic crisis, or because the poll numbers are sliding? . . . If he's in the White House, he might just suspend being president. I mean, we've got a guy like that now!"

But sayeth a (newly relevant) Newt: "This is the greatest single act of responsibility ever taken by a presidential candidate and rivals President Eisenhower saying, 'I will go to Korea,' " former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said.

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann: "Defensively, McCain had to act to stop the fall in his poll numbers. Offensively, he has placed himself at the epicenter of the only issue on the national agenda -- proactive action to stop a total international financial collapse."

"If the race is between an energetic executive and an indecisive talker, the energetic executive should win," Bill Kristol writes in The Weekly Standard.

Why now?, asks Politico's Ben Smith: "Both candidates have been marginal players; McCain, though, seems to have the potential to make himself a major one, and his move is a mark, most of all, that he doesn't like the way this campaign is going. But in terms of the timing of this move: The only thing that's changed in the last 48 hours is the public polling."

At what point will we cease to be surprised by this man?

"The gambit blindsided Mr. Obama, boxing him into a choice between looking weak by giving into his rival, or coming off as petulant if he insisted on going forward with a debate Friday on foreign policy -- a topic whose urgency has dimmed amid dire warnings of a market meltdown," Todd J. Gilman writes in The Dallas Morning News.

"Barack Obama and his team were caught off guard by John McCain's suspension of his campaign and his call to delay the first presidential debate so he could return to Capitol Hill to work on the financial crisis -- just as they were surprised when McCain tapped little-known Sarah Palin as his running mate," Lynn Sweet writes in the Chicago Sun-Times. "The Obama team has not figured out yet that McCain is waging an asymmetrical campaign, meaning at times he will take a risky, counterintuitive course, just as he did on Wednesday."

As for the debate: "My sense is there's going to be a stage, a moderator, an audience and at least one presidential candidate," said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Or not: "If McCain does not attend, 'there won't be a debate,' said one person involved in the negotiations," per The Washington Post's Robert Barnes.

As for the debate over debating the debate: "Even as the two campaigns labored to appear conciliatory, they differed over who made the first move," Jill Zuckman writes in the Chicago Tribune.

What if he doesn't show? "Obama should still travel to Oxford, Miss., and if McCain declines, Obama should do what any school board, city council, state assembly or congressional candidate would do if an opponent tried to sand bag a joint appearance at the last minute: debate an empty chair," Joe Cutbirth writes at Huffington Post.

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