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McCain remains undecided about debate with Obama

McCain remains undecided about debate with Obama

Posted: Friday, September 26, 2008 9:49 pm
By: AP



Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican John McCain has yet to commit to participating in tonight’s scheduled debate with Democratic rival Barack Obama, tying his appearance to progress on a Wall Street bailout plan being negotiated by the Bush administration and congressional lawmakers.

McCain met briefly this morning with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., before heading to the office of House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. A close friend and supporter, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., appeared to lower the bar on what sort of agreement would satisfy McCain that sufficient progress had been made.

“What’s more important than anything that when we go to Mississippi tonight, both candidates can say that the Congress is working, back in business, that we have an outline or proposal that will protect the taxpayer and save the country from financial Pearl Harbor, as Warren Buffet called it,” Graham said on “Today” on NBC. “We are not there yet, but we will get there.”

Obama said Thursday that he intended to travel to the University of Mississippi in Oxford, where the debate had long been scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. EDT. He tried to press McCain into showing up for the first of three scheduled debates between them, saying they should be able to handle the 90-minute forum and the financial crisis at the same time.

“Sen. McCain has no need to be fearful about a debate,” Obama told reporters. “He’s a person of strong opinions and he’s been expressing them on the campaign trail.”

Both McCain and Obama had returned to Washington on Thursday at the urging of President Bush, who invited them to a meeting with congressional leaders at the White House. But a session aimed at showing unity in resolving the financial crisis broke up with conflicts in plain view. McCain would not commit to supporting a plan worked out by congressional negotiators, said people from both parties who were briefed on the exchange.

McCain’s campaign said the meeting “devolved into a contentious shouting match” and implied that Obama was at fault — on a day when McCain said he was putting politics aside to focus on the nation’s financial problems.

Democrats differed.

Meanwhile, debate preparations continued in Oxford, with streets blocked off and big TV screens set up on campus and near City Hall for large debate-watching parties.

Television network officials were left with the uncertainty of whether their tonight programming would be the scheduled debate or something else arranged at the last minute. Pressed in an interview on the “CBS Evening News” about whether he would show, McCain responded: “I understand how important this debate is and I’m very hopeful, but I also have to put the country first.”

Obama told NBC that, should the debate go on, he would raise the economy even though the focus was supposed to be foreign policy.

“It’s one of the fundamental differences that I have with John McCain, and it’s something that I think we need to explore in a debate format,” Obama said. “We’re only talking about 90 minutes here.”


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Published in The Messenger 9.26.08

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