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« NH: Shaheen +4 | Blog Home Page | Reid Says McCain 'In The Way' »

Strategy Memo: What's The Spread

Good Thursday morning. Wow. We had another potential game-changing day yesterday (haven't there been enough in this campaign already?). One nominee isn't even currently running for president! As we await more surprises, and as Reid makes his way to Mississippi, here is what Washington is watching today:

--Barack Obama, John McCain and congressional leaders will meet at the White House today with Pres. Bush, as Congress continues consideration of Sec. Paulson's rescue plan. Bush hopes the session will "speed our discussions toward a bipartisan bill," the New York Times' Stolberg and Herszenhorn write. McCain had already planned to be in town, after officially suspending his campaign yesterday. Bush called Obama requesting his presence at the meeting, according to a statement by Obama spokesman Bill Burton.

--Should a deal not be reached by tomorrow, tomorrow night's scheduled debate in Oxford, Miss., may not take place. Following McCain's announcement yesterday that he would suspend his campaign and wanted the debate postponed, Obama held a press conference to announce he wanted the debate to go on -- whether a deal has been passed or not. "It's my belief that this is exactly the time the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible for dealing with this mess," he said.

--CNN's Dana Bash reports that the McCain campaign has proposed swapping next week's vice-presidential debate -- to be held October 2 in St. Louis -- for the first presidential debate, with the VP debate to be held at a later date. Currently, Obama and the event organizers are going forward with the debate as planned, though it may be a bit awkward if just one person shows up.

--The move would certainly give Palin some extra time to prep for her debate with Joe Biden, a seasoned politician and debater. Reid Wilson passes along another possibility: Could the hidden motive be to make the last image voters have one that features Palin. Perhaps more importantly, the last image would also feature Biden, and the McCain campaign may have decided that the contest between a younger woman and an older senator prone to verbal gaffes was just too tempting a target to pass up.

--Whether McCain's move yesterday to suspend his campaign was a good idea or not -- and there is certainly an argument for both sides -- what can be agreed upon is that it was a huge political gamble that his presidential hopes could possibly rest upon. The Washington Post's Dan Balz writes that McCain is banking that the move "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."

--Skeptics (reporters and talking heads) noted yesterday that McCain's decision to suspend his campaign to help solve the financial crisis came a week-and-a-half late and on the same day that three national polls (NBC News/Wall Street Journal, ABC News/Washington Post, L.A. Times/Bloomberg) showed him behind. In fact, McCain now finds himself 3.6 points behind Obama, according to the latest RCP National Average.

--Here are the takes of two longtime White House and political reporters. Huffington Post's Tom Edsall writes that McCain is making up for some recent missteps. "McCain's sudden pivot to a more sophisticated, statesman-like position demonstrates the Republican's awareness that his evident lack of intellectual comprehension over the past week, as well as his attempts to project 'populist' anger, were diminishing his stature," he writes.

--Reader's Digest's Carl Cannon writes that neither candidate acted very presidential yesterday and that both "would have been better served to let Bush speak first, and then respond." With both McCain and Palin using the word "depression" in comments yesterday, Cannon says "some hard questions should be asked now of McCain. Here's one: Is scaring the bejesus out of the citizenry for a tactical political advantage really a responsible thing to do?" On Obama, Cannon writes: "Obama came across a bit like the good Harvard student (that he once was) who'd crammed for a test--and, by God, he wants to take it."

--Things That Make You Go Hmmm...Of The Day: For a campaign that's now suspended and claims to have pulled down all advertising, it sure looked like McCain spokeswoman Nicole Wallace talking shop on "Morning Joe." It will be interesting to watch just how suspended the McCain campaign really is over the next couple of days.

--Today On The Trail: John McCain and Sarah Palin start their day at the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in New York City. Palin then heads to Philadelphia, while McCain treks to Washington for a meeting at the White House. Obama will also attend that meeting after starting his day in Clearwater, Fla., while also appearing on a live satellite feed at Clinton's NYC conference. Both VP candidates will be in Pennsylvania today, as Biden attends community gatherings in Greensburg and Wilkes-Barre.

--Kyle Trygstad