Will McCain debate?

There's been significant progress toward a bailout, but the McCain camp still isn't saying whether the GOP nominee will be at Friday's debate.

Published September 25, 2008 7:43PM (EDT)

The Obama campaign says that its candidate will be talking to the cameras tomorrow night in Oxford, Miss., with or without an opponent. The Huffington Post reports a conversation with an unnamed campaign official: "In McCain's absence, the Senator is willing to make the scheduled debate a townhall meeting, a one-on-one interview with NewsHour's Jim Lehrer, or the combination of the two, the official said."

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told the New York Times that he expects John McCain to show up. The scene Friday night, as Gibbs described it to the Associated Press, does not sound like something McCain wants to let Obama have to himself: "My sense is there's going to be a stage, a moderator, an audience and at least one presidential candidate."

For now, the McCain camp is leaving itself some wiggle room. The Associated Press quotes McCain spokesman Brian Rogers as saying, "There's no deal until there's a deal. We're optimistic but we want to get this thing done." Given that criterion, and the push-back from congressional conservatives against the agreement, it's still unclear whether McCain will make that trip to Mississippi after all.

Ultimately, attending the debate might be the best decision McCain can make. Remember the last time a major-party candidate skipped a scheduled debate?

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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2008 Elections John Mccain R-ariz.