Senator McCain is taking a huge gamble; not only is he abandoning the campaign trail for a few days, he is also pulling his advertising, at a time that Barack Obama has new momentum in the polls.
But Mr. McCain clearly believes the financial crisis should take precedent, and he's willing to risk his campaign to hammer out a bill--barely 40 days before the election.
Not surprisingly, Barack Obama has elected not to follow McCain's lead. Late this afternoon, the Illinois Senator announced that his campaign (and campaign ads) will continue. He also favors holding the first presidential debate, as scheduled, on Friday night.
Democrats are already criticizing McCain's decision to return to Washington, describing it as a campaign stunt. Never mind that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid begged for McCain's participation less than 24 hours ago. Now, McCain's presence is unwelcome and the debate must go on, at least from the Democratic perspective.
You'll never hear this from the MSM, but there is already a precedent in this campaign for skipping a joint, televised event. Earlier this summer, a consortium of veterans' and military groups proposed a forum near Fort Hood, Texas. CBS agreed to televise the historic event, which would have been the first "debate" on military issues, with questions posed by members of the armed forces, their families and veterans.
The forum was scheduled for 11 August, but Mr. Obama took a pass, citing scheduling conflicts. Organizers offered to move the forum to another debate, but the Democratic nominee declined. Senator McCain was firmly committed to the event, but the debate was eventually cancelled, due to Obama's non-participation.
And, of course, there was nary a peep from the media. The Obama camp was obviously uncomfortable with the idea of their candidate taking questions from a military audience. So, he quietly bowed out. To our knowledge, Senator Obama has yet to conduct a large-scale forum with armed forces personnel, though his wife has held a few, carefully-controlled "discussions" with supporters who are military dependents.
Critics would argue that the proposed Fort Hood forum couldn't be compared to a full-blown presidential candidate debate. But the Texas event would have provided answers and insights on issues affecting our military--among the most important decisions made by any commander-in-chief.
No one had a problem with Mr. Obama skipping that event, for purely political reasons. But if John McCain doesn't show up in Oxford, Mississippi on Friday night, he'll catch tons of political flak, from the usual suspects. Never mind that his reasons for postponing the debate are far more valid that Obama's rationale for skipping the Fort Hood forum.