Another dimension: "McCain's high-wire intervention in the financial crisis is his latest showstopper move -- and his riskiest. He might succeed, but the candidate's penchant for the dramatic has also raised anew potentially damaging questions of his age, executive abilities and, most of all, his temperament," Politico's Ben Smith and Glenn Thrush report. "McCain's attempt to shift the argument from the economy to character has, perversely, given Democrats an opening to question his own fitness to lead."
"John McCain's move to suspend his campaign and TV spots and to dodge tonight's debate is a panic attack, not cagey tactics," Democratic strategist Dan Payne writes in his Boston Globe column.
"John McCain is rapidly making his temperament an inescapable issue in the presidential campaign. Does the nation really want so much drama in the White House?" columnist Eugene Robinson writes in The Washington Post.
"McCain's boisterous intervention -- and particularly his grandstanding on the debate -- was less a presidential act than the tactical ploy of a man worried that his chances of becoming president might be slipping away," columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. writes.
And something's happening in Oxford regardless of the choices McCain makes here on out:
"Obama campaign officials said the Illinois senator plans to appear at the University of Mississippi debate site on Friday, even if Sen. McCain doesn't joins him," Amy Chozick and Elizabeth Holmes write in The Wall Street Journal. "Sen. Obama remains open to the possibility of holding a town-hall style event during which he would take questions from audience members or moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS. Such an arrangement could give Sen. Obama a big advantage by providing him with a large televised audience."
"University officials, the major television networks and the nonpartisan commission sponsoring tonight's debate all indicated they would proceed on the assumption McCain would show up in the end. But the prospect he might skip the debate -- which would be unprecedented -- only elevated the political stakes," per Mark Z. Barabak of the Los Angeles Times.
Some folks are ready for the show: "During certain times of the day, those walking across campus with press credentials and cameras outnumbered those carrying textbooks," Elizabeth Crisp writes for the Clarion Ledger. "McCain's staff also was still working here to advance the senator's visit. His wife, Cindy, has events scheduled today."
As for McCain's running mate -- one prominent conservative columnist has had enough. Kathleen Parker, who once called Sarah Palin's candidacy a "bright light," is now calling on her to withdraw.
"As we've seen and heard more from John McCain's running mate, it is increasingly clear that Palin is a problem. Quick study or not, she doesn't know enough about economics and foreign policy to make Americans comfortable with a President Palin should conditions warrant her promotion," Parker writes at TownHall.com. "It was fun while it lasted. Palin's recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League."
"Cut the verbiage and there's not much content there," she writes. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first. Do it for your country."
What tipped the balance? Another interview she didn't knock out of the park.