Today on the Presidential Campaign Trail, Sep. 23rd


McCain seeks to delay debate to focus on economy, Obama says let's proceed ... Palin says another Great Depression could be in store ... Biden says McCain often wrong about security issues ... Poll finds 18 percent of voters are up for grabs, economy key to getting their support ... Source says Freddie Mac paid $15,000 a month to lobbying firm of McCain campaign manager

McCain seeks to delay debate to focus on economy

NEW YORK (AP) - Republican John McCain said Wednesday he wants to delay Friday's debate with Democratic rival Barack Obama and temporarily put aside their partisan campaign to resolve the nation's financial crisis.

McCain's announcement came after the two candidates held private talks about joining forces to address the Wall Street meltdown. Obama's campaign said the Democrat initiated the talks, but McCain beat Obama to the punch with the first public statement calling for them to rise above politics in a crisis.

In response, Obama said "it's more important than ever" that the debate be held as scheduled.

"This is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who, in approximately 40 days, will be responsible for dealing with this mess," Obama said at a news conference in Clearwater, Fla.

McCain said the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout plan seemed headed for defeat and that a bipartisan solution was urgently needed.

He said he would set politics aside and return to Washington on Thursday to focus on the country's financial problems after he addresses former President Clinton's Global Initiative session in New York. McCain also said he had spoken with President Bush and asked him to convene a leadership meeting in Washington that would include him and Obama.

McCain also canceled his planned appearance Wednesday on CBS' "The Late Show with David Letterman."

Senior campaign adviser Mark Salter said the campaign would suspend all advertising and campaign events until a workable deal is reached on the bailout proposal - but only if Obama's campaign agrees to do the same.

Palin says 2nd Great Depression could be in store

NEW YORK (AP) - Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said Wednesday that the United States could be headed for another Great Depression if Congress doesn't act on the financial crisis.

Palin commented in an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric while visiting New York to meet with foreign leaders for the first time in her political career. Asked whether Great Depression could set in if Congress doesn't approve the Bush administration's $700 billion bailout proposal, Palin said: "Unfortunately, that is the road that America may find itself on."

The Alaska governor said the solution doesn't necessarily have to be the proposed bailout plan, but that it should be some form of bipartisan action to reform Wall Street.

Meanwhile, as Palin sought to establish her credentials in world affairs, first lady Laura Bush said Palin didn't have enough foreign policy experience but was a "quick study."

Palin got a glimpse of ground zero for the Sept. 11 terror attacks as her motorcade sped to a private meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. She also met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari before preparing to join McCain for an evening session with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Earlier Wednesday, the two candidates met together with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko.

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Biden says McCain often wrong on national security

CINCINNATI (AP) - Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden on Wednesday questioned John McCain's judgment to be commander in chief, arguing that the Republican presidential candidate would keep digging the United States into a hole of isolation and insecurity.

"Our country is less secure and more isolated than it has been at any time in recent history," Biden said in a speech. "This administration has dug America into a very deep hole around the world at a time our leadership is needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century."

Biden said a central question is which candidate can get the U.S. out of that hole, and he said it is Democrat Barack Obama.

"Nothing is more important than judgment," Biden said. "But time and again, on the most critical national security issues of our time, John McCain's judgment was wrong."

The speech offered some of the Obama campaign's strongest criticism to date about McCain's leadership abilities. It was scheduled two days before the first presidential debate, which will focus on foreign policy, and the campaign billed it as a major foreign policy speech by the veteran chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Biden listed several examples of what he described as McCain's wrong judgment, such as his contention that the U.S. would be greeted as liberators in Iraq and that it is the central front in the war on terrorism. Biden argued that the president should focus the full U.S. might on al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

AP-Yahoo Poll: 18 percent of voters persuadable

WASHINGTON (AP) - With Wall Street in turmoil and the economy hurting, which presidential candidate convinces a swath of persuadable voters that he gets it - and can be trusted to lead the country back to fiscal stability - could well win the White House.

A recent AP-Yahoo News poll found that 18 percent of likely voters are up for grabs - undecided or willing to change their minds - little more than five weeks before Americans choose between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

A large chunk of these voters say they are hurting on a personal level from the country's economic woes, and, like everyone else, they say the economy is the top issue. Most haven't decided who would best solve their problems as president; neither candidate has an advantage on handling the economy.

Simply put: Most of these voters are looking for a better life and a leader to help make it happen, and haven't found what they seek in either candidate.

Historically, the ruling party loses the White House when the economy is bad, and voters rarely keep the same party in power for three straight terms. But the poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks, shows that Obama hasn't sealed the deal and McCain has a shot after eight years of President Bush.

National surveys indicate a competitive race, meaning persuadable voters could affect the outcome. Thus, both campaigns are pouring millions of dollars into advertising with precisely targeted pitches aimed at this small slice of the electorate.

Source: Freddie Mac paid McCain aide's firm

WASHINGTON (AP) - Almost up until the time it was taken over by the government in the nation's financial crisis, one of two housing giants paid $15,000 a month to the lobbying firm of John McCain's campaign manager, a person familiar with the financial arrangement says.

The money from Freddie Mac to the firm of Rick Davis is on top of more than $30,000 a month that went directly to Davis for five years starting in 2000.

The $30,000 a month came from both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the other housing entity now under government control because of the financial crisis.

All the payments were first reported by The New York Times, which posted an article Tuesday night revealing the $15,000 a month to the firm of Davis Manafort. Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, reported early Tuesday evening that Davis' lobbying firm remained on Freddie Mac's payroll.


Barack Obama held a rally in Dunedin, Fla.

Joe Biden gave a foreign policy speech in Cincinnati and stops in Jeffersonville, Ind.


John McCain and Sarah Palin meet with world leaders in New York. McCain canceled an appearance on CBS' "The Late Show with David Letterman."


"There's a person out there who could inspire change, mend the ways of the system and start fixing the economy, but I don't think these two are up to the task." - Rick Villiere, 39, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., a married father of two who is feeling the tug of economic turmoil.


28 - the percentage of former Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters who say they will vote for Republican John McCain, up from 21 percent in June, with the number of undecided staying constant, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll.

Compiled by Ann Sanner and Douglass K. Daniel.