To Debate or Not Debate: That’s the Debate

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With all the major cable news networks gearing up for what was supposed to be the first presidential debate Friday between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, there’s a possibility that the much-anticipated verbal sparring match may be postponed as the nation’s top lawmakers circle the wagons to deal with the country’s growing economic crisis.

On Wednesday, McCain announced that he would be suspending his campaign to return to Washington, D.C. to “focus on the historic crisis” facing the U.S. economy and recommended that Friday’s debate by postponed so he and other politicians from both parties can suss out the details of the proposed $700 billion bailout of a quartet of top-tier financial institutions.

Obama, according to CNN.com, disagreed and said: “It's my belief that this is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who will be the next president. It is going to be part of the president's job to deal with more than one thing at once. It's more important than ever to present ourselves to the American people."

Meanwhile, President Bush will address the nation on all the major broadcast and cable networks Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET to discuss the need to immediately enact the proposed bailout to prevent what a White House spokesperson characterized as a  “calamity” on Wall Street.

CNN, along with MSNBC and Fox News Channel, had planned extensive, daylong coverage leading up to, during and following the debate at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss.

As of Wednesday evening, none of the three major cable news networks were available to respond to Multichannel News queries regarding the possible postponement of the debate and the programming shuffling that may ensue if it were called off.

Obama, in a news conference Wednesday afternoon, said that he and McCain had spoken by phone and had agreed to issue a joint statement about shared principles in the approach to resolving the economic crisis, according to multiple news outlets.

McCain told reporters that “I am calling on the president to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement saying the presidential debate should go on and that McCain's negotiations should not be a "photo op."

"It would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation's economy," the statement said. "We need leadership, not a campaign photo op."

McCain senior adviser Mark Salter, according to CNN, said the campaign will suspend airing all ads and all campaign events pending Obama's agreement.

All three cable news networks enjoyed stellar ratings during both candidates’ respective national conventions last month.

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