Game On!

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…
Rudy Giuliani
Nicolle Wallace
Steve Schmidt
Trent Lott
Haley Barbour
Chip Pickering
Rob Portman
Lindsay Graham

And for Obama…
David Axelrod
Greg Craig
Linda Douglass
Robert Gibbs
Dan Pfeiffer
David Plouffe
Susan Rice

Where are the VP candidates?
Joe Biden and his wife Jill will watch tonight's debate from their hotel in Milwaukee, sans media.

Sarah Palin will stop by The Irish Pub in Center City, Philadelphia for a pre-debate party but will leave before the main event begins and watch at her hotel. Perhaps because the debate will be fighting for TV space with the Phillies/Nats game?

Tivo Alert! ABC News debate coverage begins at 8:00 pm with Diane Sawyer's 20/20 special on McCain and Obama.

If TV is not enough for you, log on to for real time analysis and on the ground insight from ABC News' Senior Political Reporter Rick Klein who will be live blogging all the action in Oxford.

Weekend Tivo Alert! George Stephanopoulos sits down for an exclusive interview with Sen. John McCain on Sunday morning.

The Kicker:
"I have no idea who Craig Shirley is."
--McCain adviser Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC

On the campaign front. . .


-- 12:15 pm ET – Holds Rally in Greensborough, NC.
-- 6:30 pm ET - Holds Rally in Fredericksburg, VA.

-- 12:15 pm ET – Holds Rally in Greensborough, NC.
-- 6:30 pm ET - Holds Rally in Fredericksburg, VA.

-- 11:00 am ET - Holds Voter Registration Rally in Tallahassee, FL.

-- No Public Events

-- No Public Events

At the White House. . .

-- 10:05 am ET: Delivers his (taped) weekly radio address.


-- 1:30 pm ET – Holds Rally in Detroit, MI.

-- 1:30 pm ET – Holds Rally in Detroit, MI.

-- 1:30 pm ET – Holds Rally in Detroit, MI.

-- No Public Events

-- No Public Events

At the White House. . .

-- No public events.


ABC News' Jake Tapper and Russell Goldman: President Bush Pushes Bailout Plan; House Republicans Resist LINK

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos: McCain Will Attend Debate Tonight LINK

ABC News' Gary Langer: Do Debates Matter? LINK

ABC News' Matthew Jaffe: Biden Meets With Saakashvili, Pledges American Support LINK

ABC News' Jonathan Karl: McCain to House GOP: We Need a Deal LINK

ABC News' Jennifer Duck: Cheney Cancels Trip For Bailout Package LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Chris Rock on Alcee Hastings on Sarah Palin LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Tactics v Strategy LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Republicans on Hill: We and McCain Are Takin' Care of Business (TCB) LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Conservatives Embarrassed About Palin (No. 2 in a Series) -- 'She Makes George W. Bush Sound Like Cicero' LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: Obama Campaign Tells TV Stations Not to Run NRA TV Ads LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper and Z. Byron Wolf: Hill Democrats: Step Up, House Republicans; Go Away, John McCain LINK

ABC News' Jake Tapper: I'll Try to Find Ya Some and I'll Bring 'Em to Ya LINK

ABC News' Jan Crawford Greenburg: Palin: Withdraw "for your country" LINK

ABC News' Nitya Venkataraman: Do the Debates Even Matter? LINK

ABC News' Nitya Venkataraman: The Debate is On! LINK


Highs and Lows of Past Debates
Defining moments in presidential and vice presidential debate history. LINK

McCain, Obama to Face Off in Mississippi
ABC's political team on fallout from Sen. McCain's temporary campaign suspension. LINK

GOP Leader: McCain 'Constructive Part' of Process
Sen. McConnell says Sen. McCain has been an integral part of bipartisan effort. LINK

Reid: McCain Not Helpful on Bailout
Majority Leader on McCain: "All he has done is stand in front of the cameras." LINK

It's War! 'View' Fights Before the Debate
The ladies get into a heated discussion about McCain, Obama and the war in Iraq. LINK

Mississippi Voters Weigh In on Election
Residents discuss the issues that are important to them. LINK

Barack Obama Looking Forward to Debate
The senator discusses the bailout on board plane to Mississippi. LINK

Sen. John McCain to Attend Debate
The GOP presidential candidate plans to participate in the first debate. LINK

Bush: 'We've Got a Big Problem'
President Bush calls on Congress to "rise to the occasion" and pass a bipartisan bill. LINK

No Deal in the End
Result of bipartisan meeting on bailout seems intensified partisan infighting. LINK

W.H. Meeting: 'Chaos, Pandemonium'
George Stephanopoulos discusses status of the bailout bill. LINK

What Happened? Candidates React
Charlie Gibson speaks with McCain and Obama about bipartisan meeting, debate. LINK

Who Is the Boss at Home?
A study shows that women often make more family and finance decisions than men. LINK

Obama Girl and Nader Join Forces
Ralph Nader and Obama Girl team up in the latest video from LINK

Palin's A-'Maze'-ing Crop Labyrinth
Get lost inside the GOP VP candidate's 'corny' portrait in Ohio. LINK

Kimmel: Presidential Puppets Debate!
Jimmy lets rubber versions of McCain and Obama have it out. LINK

Deal or No Deal
Just how much is $700 billion? LINK

The Bottom Line on the Debate
George Stephanopoulos on whether or not the presidential debate will occur. LINK

Bailout Talks Stalled
Bipartisan White House lawmaker meeting ends with no agreement. LINK

Shelby: 'This Plan Is Flawed'
The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee disagrees with bailout plan. LINK

Pelosi: 'We're Making Progress'
Democratic House Speaker gives an update on bailout talks. LINK