Debate's On

Declaring he had seen

Declaring he had seen “significant progress toward a bipartisan agreement,” Republican presidential candidate John McCain announced he would head to Oxford, Miss., to take part in tonight’s debate, as originally scheduled.

McCain was in Washington in the first place after saying on Wednesday that he would “suspend” his campaign, head to Washington, and help sort out what he portrayed as a chaotic deadlock over how to resolve the crisis in the financial-markets. (Critics have pointed out that his campaign didn’t shut its doors; vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and other high-profile supporters kept up a steady pace, and McCain did several television interviews.)

McCain's description at the time was at odds with accounts out of Washington, where legislative staffers and news reports suggested progress had been made toward a bill adding oversight, executive-pay restrictions and taxpayer protections to Treasury's original $700 billion proposal. And, indeed, the following morning, key Democrats and Republicans announced a deal was near.

Then, on Thursday, House Republicans, and some in the Senate, balked, with Sen. Richard Sheby stating that there was "no agreement." Talks broke down, and the prospects of any kind of deal abruptly seemed to recede. (See the full saga of how negotiations collapsed Thursday.)

In his statement today, McCain faulted his fellow lawmakers for having "played the blame game rather than work together to find a solution." But Democrats blamed McCain for injecting presidential politics into, and derailing, delicate negotiations.

Meantime, congressional and administration negotiators are back behind closed doors this morning. Attention is likely to switch to the debate, which is now expected to include economic topics as well as foreign policy. Certainly, some are already focusing on Oxford: McCain campaign ads touting his "win" in the debate have already been spotted online.

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