Media to McCain: Are you going to debate?

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With word from Washington that there is an agreement in principle on the $700 billion plan to bailout the US financial markets, the question on every political observer's mind is -- what about the debate?

If we've got a bailout agreement, that should open the doors for the mano-a-mano verbal slugfest, right?

Not so fast. No matter how many times you phrase something to the McCain campaign, they'll keep giving you the same answer over and over again. Like the answers we received from McCain spokesman Ben Porritt when asked if there were any updates.

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3:36pm: "There isn't a deal, until there's a deal."

4:10pm: "There is no deal until there is a deal. We are optimistic but priority number one is to find an economic solution."

We had progress anyway in terms of the number of words sent back.

Does that mean McCain would actually skip the debate and allow Obama to go it alone? Radio silence from the McCain campaign on that question.

Gutsy or Hail Mary?

No matter what happens with the debate tomorrow, McCain's move Thursday night couldn't have shaken the political world up any more or received such polar reactions from people -- for example, former colleagues Newt Gingrich and Barney Frank.

Newt Gingrich called it gutsy.

"[It's the] greatest single act of responsibility ever taken by a presidential candidate," he said. "It is surprisingly irresponsible and politically dangerous for the Obama campaign to try and insist on a debate Friday night."

Democratic Representative Barney Frank brought up a Doug Flutie'ish sports analogy.

"It's the longest Hail Mary pass in the history of either football or Marys," Frank said.

Roger Simon over at Politico brought back a great memory from the McCain 2000 campaign.

"McCain has never been known for excessive caution," Simon writes. "At the beginning of his 2000 presidential run, he would talk about his early days as a Navy jet jockey when he and his buddies would just take off without bothering with all the safety procedures.

"McCain said his motto in those days was: 'Kick the tires and light the fires. To hell with the checklist. Anybody can be slow.' "

It's going on

Obama, meanwhile, is full speed ahead. At this morning's Global Initiative meeting put on by former President Bill Clinton, Obama reiterated the call that postponing the debate is unnecessary.

"The American people deserve to hear directly from myself and Senator McCain about how we intend to lead our country,'' Obama said. "The times are too serious to put our campaign on hold, or to ignore the full range of issues that the next president will face."

It's not going on

John McCain brought up the debates too in his speech, reminding people why he is in postponement mode.

"I cannot carry on a campaign as though this dangerous situation had not occurred, or as though a solution were at hand, which it clearly is not," McCain said. "As of this morning I suspended my political campaign. With so much on the line, for America and the world, the debate that matters most right now is taking place in the United States Capitol -- and I intend to join it. Senator Obama is doing the same. America should be proud of the bipartisanship we are seeing."

Debate is likely

Although a one-person presidential debate on Friday would be historic and a great skit on Saturday Night Live, many people just don't see it happening.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour today was carrying on like there aren't any changes.

“This is going to be a great debate tomorrow night and we’re excited about it,” Barbour said at a press conference today.

At a "Monitor Breakfast" sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday, Obama campaign strategist Robert Gibbs predicted John McCain will show up for the debate.

“I think he will be there,” Gibbs said. “I think he will decide that a president is capable of doing more than one thing at a time.”

"[Obama's] practicing his part in this, so we’re prepared to take questions from Jim Lehrer with or without John McCain,” Gibbs continued.

Strategizers

Some strategists don't see it happening without McCain there. In an email to The Vote, GOP strategist Rob Stutzman thinks - deal or no deal - McCain's going to be there.

"Debates should favor McCain, I bet he shows up," Stutzman said. "He needs the value of the side-by-side match-up, and now that there’s an apparent deal on the bailout, I think he’ll be in Oxford tomorrow night. The hullabaloo increases viewership 15 percent. Net win for McCain. Plus they need to do something to bury the Palin CBS interview!"

Yeah, that is something else for the McCain camp to consider.

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