This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," September 25, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: All right. Step with me inside the "Strategy Room" tonight. John McCain and Barack Obama are fresh out of a meeting moments ago with President Bush talking about this tentative bailout agreement that's being figured out tonight.
Meanwhile, tomorrow is a big day, folks. The presidential debate, and it is hanging on a wire right now. John McCain is getting mixed reactions after saying yesterday that he is suspending his campaign and that he thought it might be a good idea, given what is going on in the country, to delay the debate for a few days. And it looks like this move might be working for him.
There is a tie right now in the Gallup poll taking into consideration McCain's announcement, although we should note that this would be very close to include that tomorrow in the Gallup poll. You will get a better sense of the reflection of how all this is playing out for John McCain based on that decision. But 46-46 is a move. We have seen Barack Obama ahead by about three percent in that poll in recent days.
So here now on the left, we have FOX News political analyst Kirsten Powers. And on the right, we have former Romney press secretary, Kevin Madden. Welcome to both of you.
Kevin, do you think we have a debate tomorrow night?
KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ROMNEY PRESS SECRETARY: You know, if I had to predict, I would say that there would be one. There's a reason that we have commissions. There's a reason that those commissions have agreements between the candidates. And I think you are seeing every single sign pointing towards the debate going forward.
MACCALLUM: Yes, but you know, if John McCain wants to be the maverick that he always has been - he made a commitment. He said, "I'm not going to do the debate unless we've got a deal." What if there is no deal, Kevin?
MADDEN: Well, if there is a no deal, there is a very good chance that John McCain may not show up for the debate. And we'll have - we're going to have this - what Chris Cillizza from the "Washington Post" very aptly called a political stare-down over the next 24 hours, which is going to be a lot of fun for folks like me and Kirsten to talk about, a lot of fun for you, guys, to report about.
MACCALLUM: That's for sure. This is the unending drama. Kirsten, you know, how do you think they both did today, showing up in Washington? Barack Obama was caught off guard, I think, by John McCain's move yesterday. How do you think they're faring?
KIRSTEN POWERS, POLITICAL ANALYST: He was definitely caught off-guard. And I think - look, I think if John McCain chooses to not show up at the debate tomorrow, to me he seems sort of erratic. I mean, it's sort of jarring. It's like, "Wait, so now you're going to call off the debate? What does it have to do with anything?"
You know, maybe the average American doesn't realize that he actually can do both things, as Barack Obama says. You know, a president needs to be able to do more than one thing at a time, certainly in this day and age of the Internet and everything. It's sort of unbelievable that he can't go to the debate. So I think that that is going to be a telling moment if he decides to just not show up.
MACCALLUM: Kevin, what about John McCain in terms of his base? There are folks out there saying that House Republicans, as Brit Hume was talking about earlier in the show, are not happy with this deal. He's going to have to, in some way, you know, reach out to that base and try to create something. And that may be the one way where he gets a lot of credit for this move.
MADDEN: Well, you know, John McCain has always flourished because he has actually gone against a lot of what people would think a conventional politician would do and try to pander to a base to curry favor with them. John McCain will always - you know, he has always made the case that he has flourished when he has gone out there and done what he thinks is the right thing. When he has put progress ahead of partisanship. When he's put his country first over his own political ambition.
So I think what you're seeing with McCain is him really trying to, again, challenge the status quo, and actually put the debate forward in a way that is going to reach a successful end rather than trying to get up and allow the political machinations of the campaign.
MACCALLUM: Everything you just said there, Kevin, and maybe there's just part of me that wants to see the wildcard outcome of all this because it's been so dramatic right now. It points to John McCain perhaps not doing this debate tomorrow night, which would be the real, you know, sort of maverick, out-of-the-box thing to do based on what is going on. Kirsten, what do you think the chances are of that?
POWERS: Well, you know, at this point, you can expect anything from him. Because, certainly, nobody expected him to choose Sarah Palin so maybe he would do something like that. But like I said, I do think you get to a point where you start to seem erratic, you know.
And right now, people are looking for somebody who is steady and reliable in the middle of a crisis. And I don't think he should just be just doing things that kind of showy and flashy, just for a fact.
MACCALLUM: We do have a poll up, if we could just pop it up really quickly. And it is closer than you might think - 53 percent of the people that were polled said, "Yes, we must have a debate, but 42 percent said they understood the reason to postpone this debate. So we're going to have a lot playing out over the next 24 hours.
Kirsten Powers and Kevin Madden, as always, a pleasure to see both of you. Thanks, you guys.
POWERS: Thank you.
MADDEN: Great to be with you.
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