WASHINGTON // Republican John McCain said he is suspending his campaign and will return to Washington to focus on the roiling US financial crisis. He said he asked Democratic opponent Barack Obama to join him in the nation's capital and to agree to a delay in Friday's first presidential debate. Mr Obama's spokesman, Bill Burton, quickly responded, saying that Mr McCain made his announcement unilaterally moments after agreeing to joint action by both candidates that was initiated by Mr Obama in a personal phone call to Mr McCain earlier yesterday.
"At 8.30 this morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain to ask him if he would join in issuing a joint statement outlining their shared principles and conditions for the Treasury proposal and urging Congress and the White House to act in a bipartisan manner to pass such a proposal," Mr Burton said. "At 2.30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator Obama's call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement. The two campaigns are currently working together on the details."
Mr McCain warned of dire consequences if Congress did not act quickly even the US House of Representatives and Senate were struggling to find agreement on a US$700 billion (about Dh2.5trillion) bailout package sent to Capitol Hill this week by the Bush administration. "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. If we do not act, ever corner of our country will be impacted. We cannot allow this to happen," Mr McCain said in New York City.
It was not immediately clear if Mr Obama had agreed to delay the first debate, slated for Friday at the University of Mississippi. With an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll showing nearly one-fifth of Americans undecided or willing to change their minds, Obama and McCain face a major hurdle in convincing the public they are best able to deal with financial worries as deep as any since 1932, when the country turned to the leadership of Franklin D Roosevelt in the Great Depression.
Early yesterday, he met with a panel of business executives to discuss the bailout. They included former Massachusetts Gov Mitt Romney, his one-time rival for the Republican nomination, and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. He renewed his insistence that the bailout deal should have greater transparency, oversight and CEO accountability to make it acceptable to voters.
Yesterday, Mr Obama held a major rally in Florida where he was spending most of his time closeted with aides in preparation for Friday's presidential debate, which will focus on foreign policy.