What: First Presidential Debate
When: Sept, 26, 2008, 9 pm ET
Where: University of Mississippi
OXFORD, MS -- Congress has not settled on a final agreement on the financial bailout plan but after 48 dramatic hours, both John McCain and Barack Obama are on the ground in Oxford, MS and the countdown is on until the start of the first presidential debate. Tonight's debate will be moderated by PBS' Jim Lehrer and the focus will be foreign policy, but it's a pretty safe bet that the latest economic news will be a part of the conversation tonight.
Per ABC News' Tahman Bradley, there will be nine separate nine-minute segments in tonight's debate. Lehrer will pose a question and then the candidates will take turns answering for two minutes each. After that, the candidates will engage each other back and forth for an additional five minutes before the moderator moves to the next question.
Both candidates did an afternoon walk through of the debate hall, the Gertrude C. Ford Center. The area around the press filing center is a political "who's who" of campaign surrogates, staffers and even former presidential candidates (Gov. Bill Richardson, Rudy Giuliani and even Sen. John Kerry who grabbed himself a seat on a curb for a chat with former right hand man Marvin Nicholson, now Obama's trip director).
Both sides were engaging in the typical pre-debate spin, with the Obama campaign going so far as putting out a list of their candidate's less than stellar reviews from primary season debates. ("lifeless, aloof and windy" and "too professorial or too subdued in debate- style settings").
ABC News' John Berman reports that Obama aides say the trip to Washington kept the Democratic nominee from being able to prepare the way he had planned, with full mock-debates on Thursday in Florida. Berman reports that Obama aides note that the candid ate did do 22 debates in the primaries including several with just two candidates.
ABC News' Tahman Bradley notes the significance of tonight's debate location: "This is the University of Mississippi's first presidential debate and it falls on the 48th anniversary of the first Kennedy-Nixon debate. There will be a pretty blunt reminder of the historic nature of Sen. Obama's candidacy when he butts heads with Sen. John McCain. Fifty years ago, few people thought it possible that a black man would take part in a debate as his party's presidential nominee -- and certainly would not believe the scene would not take place at the University of Mississippi, given the school's place in the nation's civil rights history. In 1962, violent race riots over the admission of a black man to the university broke out on the campus and spread to the streets of Oxford. Federal forces were brought in to ease the situation."
"Like a record, baby, right round round…"
One of the key (though perhaps anachronistic in the era of blackberries and Twitter) parts of the night is the post-debate spin session which can have a tremendous impact on the analysis tonight and through the weekend.
Representing the McCain campaign post debate…
And for Obama…
Where are the VP candidates?
Joe Biden and his wife Jill will watch tonight's debate from their hotel in Milwaukee, sans media.