The Washington Post's Dan Balz says McCain's decision to suspend his campaign and seek to postpone Friday's debate "may be among the biggest of his political life. The Republican presidential nominee is hoping that his abrupt decision … will be seen as the kind of country-first, bipartisan leadership he believes Americans want. What he risks, if things don't go as he hopes, is a judgment by voters that his move was a reckless act by an impetuous and struggling politician that hardened partisan lines in Washington at just the wrong moment and complicated efforts to deal with the biggest financial crisis in more than half a century."
The New York Times writes that McCain's "decision seeking to postpone the first debate was yet another unpredictable, daring step taken by his campaign over the last month: its selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as a vice-presidential candidate shook up the race in late August, and days later the campaign stripped down the first day of the Republican National Convention because of the threat of Hurricane Gustav. In the midst of the confusion, officials with the Commission on Presidential Debates said that they were moving forward with the debate and that talks with the McCain campaign throughout the day had not persuaded them on Mr. McCain's position. 'We believe the public will be well served by having all of the debates go forward as scheduled,' the commission said."
The Boston Globe calls McCain's move in asking for the debate to be delayed "a high-wire political gambit." "McCain's move was another extraordinary twist in a race full of extraordinary twists. It reflects not only the deep concerns of Republican and Democratic leaders about the grave state of the economy, but also the shifting dynamics in a presidential contest that polls suggest has swung in Obama's favor. Voters' focus on the Wall Street crisis and the economy -- long an advantage for Obama -- has helped give him an edge this week nationally and in key battleground states."
The Los Angeles Times: "McCain's decision to up the ante was an audacious gambit to show leadership in a time of crisis. It drew the same kind of attention McCain received when he picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate and, earlier, when he retooled himself as an ally of oil drilling as gas prices soared."
The LA Times also offers a timeline of the Obama/McCain phone tag. When Obama called his opponent at 8:30 am yesterday, "McCain was meeting with economic advisors, including former EBay Chief Executive Meg Whitman and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Obama left a message with his phone number. Later in the morning, Obama spent several hours in debate preparation at his hotel in Clearwater -- keeping a phone with him in case his opponent called. At 2:30 p.m., as Obama's motorcade left a rally near Clearwater, McCain returned the call, and the two spoke for five minutes (according to Obama aides) or 10 minutes (according to McCain aides)."
Per Politico, "A McCain aide [said] that the campaign is proposing to the Presidential Debate Commission and the Obama camp that if there's no bailout deal by Friday, the first presidential debate should take the place of the vice presidential debate, currently scheduled for October 2 in St. Louis. Under this scenario, the vice presidential debate would be rescheduled for a date yet to be determined, and take place in Oxford, Miss., where the first presidential debate is currently slated to be held."
The Boston Globe's editorial board calls it a "stunt." "[A]ltering the debate schedule would hardly serve voters. If anything, debates are most valuable at times of national crisis, because voters need to hear candidates highlight their policy differences… And McCain's initial response to the mess -- his odd claim that the fundamentals of the economy are strong -- made him look out of touch. But if he now thinks the problem can be tidied up during a short break from the campaign trail, he needs some new economic advisers. McCain has already brought discredit upon his campaign by shielding running mate Sarah Palin from hostile questions. This impulsive new stunt makes him appear unsteady and underprepared, too. America can work through a financial crisis and handle a campaign at the same time. In politics as on Broadway, the show must go on."
The New York Daily News on McCain's move: "Bold… or Bonkers?"
A new LA Times/Bloomberg poll shows Obama ahead of McCain 49%-45% nationally among likely voters. That advantage shrinks to 46-44 among registered voters, giving the Illinois senator a lead comparable to the paper's last poll in August. The economy looms large, with voters preferring Obama on economic issues by a rate of 46% to 32%. He also has a 15-point advantage for voters evaluating his ability to handle rising gas prices, and a 30-point lead on healthcare. But McCain has gained major ground among independents, swinging from an 11-point deficit among the group in August to a 15-point lead in the latest poll.
MoveOn has a new TV ad hitting McCain on the economy.