Barack Obama is committed to hosting a public, televised event Friday night in Mississippi even if John McCain does not show up, an official close to the Obama campaign tells the Huffington Post.
In McCain's absence, the Senator is willing to make the scheduled debate a townhall meeting, a one-on-one interview with NewsHour's Jim Lehrer, or the combination of the two, the official said.
Such a course of action could make life incredibly difficult for McCain, who has called for the suspension of the debate in light of the current economic crisis. Should he stay in Washington D.C. -- if a bailout is not completed by then -- and let Obama alone reach tens of millions of television viewers?
A lot, of course, depends upon what the debate commission decides to do. At this point in time, there is no indication that they are going to postpone the affair, as the McCain campaign has asked.
Separately, on Thursday, Obama himself said he was intending to go to Oxford, Miss for the scheduled debate and called on McCain to be there with him.
"The American people deserve to hear directly from myself and Sen. McCain about how we intend to lead our country," Obama said. "The times are too serious to put our campaign on hold, or to ignore the full range of issues that the next president will face."
Meanwhile, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said on Thursday that he expected the debate to go forward as planned.
UPDATE: An adviser Barack Obama says he expects John McCain to attend:
"I actually think he's going to come to the debate," the adviser, Robert Gibbs, told reporters in Washington on Thursday.
And echoing a talking point that Senator Obama used in his press conference on Thursday, Mr. Gibbs added: "I think he will decide that a president is capable of doing more than one thing at a time."
UPDATE II:: More from the AP:
John McCain's campaign expressed cautious optimism Thursday as congressional Republicans and Democrats agreed in principle on a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry hours before the two presidential candidates were to meet with President Bush on the crisis.
Even so, the action didn't appear to be strong enough to convince McCain to attend Friday's scheduled presidential debate. His campaign has said he wouldn't participate unless there was consensus between Congress and the administration, and a spokesman said the afternoon developments had not changed his plans.
UPDATE III: McCain aide Tucker Bounds tells MSNBC, "we're going into the debates."