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John McCain suspends campaign

John McCain throws the US campaign into turmoil by calling for a delay in the first presidential debate to try to forge a Wall Street rescue plan — a surprise move promptly rejected by Obama.

world Updated: Sep 25, 2008 23:53 IST
Steve Holland

Republican White House hopeful John McCain threw the US campaign into turmoil on Wednesday by calling for a delay in the first presidential debate to try to forge a Wall Street rescue plan — a surprise move promptly rejected by Democrat Barack Obama.

The political stunner came as some polls showed McCain falling behind Obama in their race for the November 4 election. Republicans and the White House welcomed McCain’s move as a needed appeal for both parties to work together, while Democrats suspected a publicity stunt ahead of Friday’s scheduled debate.

McCain announced he would suspend his campaign, pull television advertising, halt fundraising and return to Washington on Thursday to try to help negotiations over a stalled $700 billion bailout plan for Wall Street.

“We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved,” he said, urging Obama to join him.

McCain’s pressure appeared to pay off. Hours later, Obama agreed to a request from President George W Bush to attend a White House meeting on Thursday with McCain and congressional leaders, and the campaigns issued a joint statement saying, “This is a time to rise above politics for the good of the country.”

But Obama said he saw no reason to delay their debate in Oxford, Mississippi, the first of three face-to-face encounters scheduled between them before November 4.

“What I’m planning to do now is debate on Friday,” Obama said in Clearwater, Florida, where he had gone to prepare for the high-stakes encounter. “I think that it is going to be part of the president’s job to deal with more than one thing at once.”

A senior McCain adviser made clear McCain would not attend a Friday debate unless a congressional rescue deal was sealed.

“I don’t think, at this time, that we can worry much about politics,” McCain told the CBS Evening News, calling the country’s financial condition “dire” but disagreeing with Palin that a repeat of the Great Depression could be in the offing.

The US Commission on Presidential Debates, which organises the debates, said it would hold the debate on Friday as planned.

McCain’s move, aimed at projecting leadership during the greatest US financial crisis since the Depression, came at a time when Americans have been telling pollsters they believe Obama could handle the economy better than McCain.

An ABC News-Washington Post opinion poll said Obama had climbed to a 52 per cent to 43 per cent lead over McCain, a survey the McCain camp questioned.