ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos reports: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will be in Oxford, Mississippi tonight for a planned debate with his Republican rival John McCain, Obama campaign officials tell ABC News.
If McCain fails to show up, officials are mulling turning the first presidential debate into a town hall meeting where the Democratic presidential candidate takes questions from the audience and from the debate moderator PBS’s Jim Lehrer.
McCain campaign officials tell ABC News that they have made no decisions yet on whether the Republican presidential candidate will be there.
Asked about the possibility of Obama holding a town hall meeting, McCain campaign aides said flippantly, "Sounds kind of interesting."
McCain had originally challenged Obama to a series of town hall meetings but negotiations between the candidates fell apart.
When he suspended his campaign on Wednesday to return to Washington to work on the bailout plan, McCain called for the debate to be pushed back to Oct. 2, the scheduled date of the vice -presidential debate.
But with the administration’s proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street in limbo and it isn’t clear now what McCain’s next move will be.
Obama has said he will be in Mississippi tonight, arguing the country needs to hear from the two men who will inherit the nation’s troubled economy in 39 days.
McCain has argued the nation needs Congress to arrive at a compromise.
Democrats are criticizing McCain for inserting himself into the delicate bailout negotiations on Capitol Hill, arguing they were on track to have a plan before he arrived in Washington.
One thing is certain: there will certainly not be a vote on the bailout deal today.
Negotiators will meet today around 11:30 a.m. to discuss the framework of an agreement among Senate Democrats, House Democrats, the Bush administration, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and several Senate Republicans, except Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., who has been vocal in his criticism of the administration’s bailout plan.
However House Republicans have proposed a separate plan.
The big question is whether McCain, President Bush, or Paulson. can find a way to bring House Republicans back into the agreement.
With no votes today in Congress on the bailout, the planned presidential debate is in limbo as well.
All eyes are now on McCain today as he decides whether he will debate Obama in Mississippi tonight.