McCain To Take Part In Debate
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Now, to tonight's presidential debate at the University of Mississippi. Two days ago, John McCain said he would not attend unless there was a deal on the bailout. Barack Obama said the show must go on with or without a deal. And today, McCain apparently agreed and traveled to Oxford, Mississippi. Joining us to talk about this much anticipated first presidential debate is NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Hi, Ron.
RON ELVING: Good to be with you, Melissa.
BLOCK: Ron, why did John McCain reverse course?
ELVING: He seems to have had a change of mind, if not necessarily of heart about this. He released the statement today in which he said he had hoped that if he stopped campaigning for a day and came to Washington, others might put politics aside and make a deal. Well, it's now apparent that that was not what happened. So, McCain said today that that was the fault of Barack Obama and the Democrats, irrespective of all the reports about rebellion among House Republicans. So, McCain also said that there had been significant progress in all of this toward a bipartisan agreement and a new negotiator had been named for the Republicans - we just heard in there Roy Blunt from Missouri. So, McCain said he's ready to resume all his normal campaign activities and functions, and go to the debate, and then comeback to Washington to make sure all voices are heard.
BLOCK: And of course, never looks good to be ducking a debate.
ELVING: That is certainly true.
BLOCK: This debate was supposed to focus on foreign policy by mutual agreement. It would seem obvious that they would have to be talking about the economy tonight.
ELVING: Yes, the focus will still be on foreign policy. But other questions are going to have to intrude, and moderator host Jim Lehrer of PBS is going to have a freedom to intrude with them. You can't really have a crisis like this going on and not even talk about it.
BLOCK: Have the sands shifted for these two candidates tonight? Do they have to be putting on a different message maybe than we would have seen, I don't know, we could go two weeks ago?
ELVING: Possibly so, partly because of the subject matter. But you know, foreign policy and national security are really John McCain's favorite topics. This is his home turf, so he's defending what the public regards as his superior expertise and experience in this area. And he doesn't want to let Barack Obama stand too tall on these issues. He has to show mastery on these, so there is that challenge to him. And there's always the question of who gets the momentum going out of the first debate.
BLOCK: OK. NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Ron, thank so much.
ELVING: Thank you, Melissa.
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