The week leading up to the debate has taken almost as many turns as the financial markets, which have been on the ropes after the recent shuttering of once-stalwart financial institutions and record-breaking bank failures, as well as the collapse of the mortgage lending industry earlier this year.
The Bush administration has proposed a $700 billion "financial rescue package," but despite a bipartisan summit at the White House, Capitol Hill meetings late into the night Thursday and continued efforts Friday, lawmakers have yet to broker a deal.
Wednesday, after it became increasingly clear that an agreement would not come easily, Republican presidential hopeful McCain said he'd suspend his campaign and head to Washington, initially casting doubt as to whether he'd attend the debate.
His Democratic rival, Obama, maintained his stance that the debate should go forward.
"I'm looking forward to the debate," Obama said before the event. "And look forward after the debate to coming back to Washington and hopefully getting a package done."
Democrats insisted that their candidate could successfully balance the need to deal with the economy with his commitment to the debate.
Lawmakers hope to strike a deal on the financial package before Monday. But for now, at least, the debate will go on -- both in Washington and in Mississippi.
The road to the White House will continue with two more presidential debates: Oct. 7 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., and Oct. 15 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. The vice presidential candidates, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, for the Democrats and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for the Republicans, square off Oct. 2 at Washington University in St. Louis.
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ABC News' John Berman, Jennifer Parker and the staff of ABC News Radio contributed to this report.