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McCain calls for debates to be delayed

From NBC's Chuck Todd and Domenico Montanaro
McCain called for Friday's first presidential debate to be postponed, according to prepared remarks released by the campaign. The dates for the debates were set more than 10 months ago by the Commission on Presidential Debates, on Nov. 19, 2007.

From a Senior McCain source:
-- McCain called Obama before he made the statement and told him he was going to suspend his campaign and move back to DC until the economic crisis has been figured out. 
-- McCain wants to create "a political free zone" until a deal is reached between now and Monday. 
--  McCain also spoke with Bush and urged him to get both sides to work together

Video: Sen. John McCain announces he is suspending his presidential campaign and returning to Washington D.C. to work on finance reform, and asks Barack Obama to reschedule their first presidential debate.

The Obama campaign's Bill Burton said in a statement: "At 8:30 this morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain to ask him if he would join in issuing a joint statement outlining their shared principles and conditions for the Treasury proposal and urging Congress and the White House to act in a bipartisan manner to pass such a proposal. At 2:30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator Obama's call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement.  The two campaigns are currently working together on the details."

Here's part of what McCain said, in part: 

"Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative. I have spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision and have asked him to join me. ...

"We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the commission on presidential debates to delay Friday night's debate until we have taken action to address this crisis.

"I am confident that before the markets open on Monday we can achieve consensus on legislation that will stabilize our financial markets, protect taxpayers and homeowners, and earn the confidence of the American people. All we must do to achieve this is temporarily set politics aside, and I am committed to doing so."

*** UPDATE *** NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports that Obama campaign strategist Robert Gibbs said, Obama initiated contact at 8:30 this morning after discussing it on the flight to Tampa yesterday afternoon and again last night. They discussed a joint statement of shared principles on the bailout package -- to help move it along toward consensus on the Hill. 

At 2:35 p.m., McCain called back and mentioned whether they should meet at the White House and delay the debate. Asked whether they should delay the debate, Gibbs said that this is a global financial crisis -- and there would be no better way to shed light this crisis than to debate it.  Gibbs says they have not decided whether or not it would be better to postpone the debate -- but want to talk to the sponsors (the debate commission) first.

NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports, advisors say they are also reaching out to Obama Campaign Manager David Plouffe to discuss pulling ads as well. (That can be difficult once they are in station traffic rotations.)

McCain advisors say they will do all the debates but the schedule is up in the air. 
They also deny that there is a political calculation in this and say without action the country could slide into a Depression by Monday and added "we'll see 12 percent unemployment" if action is not completed. GOP sources say they believe the current deal is dead on the Hill and reject suggestions that without McCain's vote Democrats would not support a package.

McCain advisors won't speak for Obama's side of the phone call but describe it as a "good conversation." Advisors also say this is not a response to sliding poll numbers and insist this is "an even race."

*** UPDATE 2 *** McCain campaign's Brian Rogers: "Senator Obama phoned Senator McCain at 8:30 am this morning but did not reach him. The topic of Senator Obama's call to Senator McCain was never discussed. Senator McCain was meeting with economic advisers and talking to leaders in Congress throughout the day prior to calling Senator Obama. At 2:30 pm, Senator McCain phoned Senator Obama and expressed deep concern that the plan on the table would not pass as it currently stands. He asked Senator Obama to join him in returning to Washington to lead a bipartisan effort to solve this problem."

*** UPDATE 3 *** More on McCain's "suspension"/delay debate stance, from traveling pool report:

McCain Senior Adviser Mark Salter briefed reporters just now off camera on the decision. He told us the following:
--McCain will suspend airing all ads and all campaign events pending obama agreement
--McCain called President Bush today and told him of the plan. He would not characterize Bush reax.
--McCain talked to colleagues on the Hill during last 2 days and learned that passage of the Paulson plan was going to be next to impossible
--McCain would partake in debate if they passed agreement by Friday morning
--Salter will get back to us on whther mccain is suspending fundraising
--Salter says they are confident if all parties get together--they can agree on a plan by Monday.