"America this week faces an historic crisis in our financial system. If we do not act, every corner of our country will be impacted. We cannot allow this to happen," McCain said in mid-afternoon remarks to reporters in New York. The stunning move means running mate Sarah Palin will also suspend her campaign activities. McCain further asked the Presidential Debate Commission to postpone his first debate with Obama, which is scheduled to take place Friday night at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. Obama responded by saying that such disruptive measures were unnecessary.
"Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. It's not necessary for us to think that we can only do one thing and suspend everything else," Fox News quoted Obama as saying. He said that he and McCain have large campaign planes that can get them out of Mississippi and back to Washington quickly.
The debate commission released a statement saying it was moving forward with plans to hold the debate on Friday. The McCain announcement triggered a round of recriminations on the campaign trail and on Capitol Hill, with several prominent Democrats accusing McCain of adding an extra dose of politics to an already tumultuous debate.
Obama said Wednesday he spoke earlier in the day with McCain, who suggested that they suspend the debate. "I thought this was something that he was mulling over. Apparently this was something he was more decisive about in his own mind," Obama said in a press conference in Florida, where he has been preparing for the debate.
Obama has since accepted an invitation from President Bush, according to his campaign, to attend a meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C., with congressional leaders. The same invitation was extended to McCain, who earlier called for such a meeting. Obama said the scrutiny of the bailout plan is non-partisan and he would not allow it to become welfare for Wall Street executives or an opportunity for political ploys.
"There are times for politics and there are times to rise above them, do what is right for the country. This is one of those times," he said. McCain said he would leave the campaign trail after delivering an address to former President Clinton's Global Initiative on Thursday morning. He canceled a Wednesday afternoon taping of The Late Show With David Letterman and a Thursday interview with FOX News. His campaign said he would suspend airing all ads and fundraising until Congress passes bailout legislation. "We must pass legislation to address this crisis. If we do not, credit will dry up, with devastating consequences for our economy. People will no longer be able to buy homes and their life savings will be at stake. Businesses will not have enough money to pay their employees," he said.
McCain will participate in Friday night's debate if a bill is passed by Friday morning, his adviser Mark Salter said. On Wednesday, the FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll showed Obama had taken a 45-39 percent lead over McCain, in large part because of independent voters. A Washington Post poll also showed that most voters think Obama has a better approach to dealing with the economy than McCain.