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Locals react to McCain’s wish to cancel debate

By Matthew Stolle

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Republican nominee John McCain suspended his campaign Wednesday to return to Washington to work on a bailout for Wall Street. Whether it was partisanship or patriotism that motivated McCain depends on who you ask.

Area Democrats generally saw it as a stunt, a bit of posturing by a Republican candidate in a hard-fought race. Local Republicans saw it as another example of McCain’s willingness to put country before politics.

Lynn Wilson, chairwoman of the Olmsted County DFL Party, said McCain was using the crisis to avoid a critical debate set for Friday that all Americans needed to hear. She said it showed an "appalling disrespect to the American people" by reducing politics to diversions, like the recent furor over "lipstick on a pig."

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"This discussion should be brought into the living rooms of the American people. It is affecting their lives. To suspend or cancel the debate on Friday night is nothing short of selling short the American people," Wilson.

McCain said Wednesday in a statement that he’ll break off from campaigning on Thursday and return to the nation’s capital to help work on the proposed $700 billion bailout. Democratic rival Barack Obama said the debate shouldn’t be delayed.

"America this week faces an historic crisis in our financial system. We must pass legislation to address this crisis," McCain said. "Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington.

McCain was also suspending television advertising and fundraising, an aide said.

Area Republicans commended McCain for his willingness to put national priorities above personal considerations. Duane Quam, chairman of the GOP First Congressional District, said it made sense that McCain would return to Washington to work out a solution that was so far eluding congressional leaders.

"He decided that this was important, to work with Democrats to try and bring a resolution sooner rather than later," Quam said.

Republican leaders also dismissed the notion that McCain was exploiting the situation in Washington to try to make himself look more statesmanlike. They said the decision was likely to do more harm than good for his presidential prospects. One said the decision was reminiscent of McCain’s support last year for a troop surge in Iraq at a time when the war was going poorly.

"It shows that he’s really putting America’s financial and economic goals ahead of his campaign, because I’m sure his campaign manager is going crazy," said Rebecca Smith, co-chair of the Olmsted County Republican Party.

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Others said there was posturing going on, but there was no point in getting worked up about it.

"I think there’s still some political posturing going on, which is unfortunate, because it is an important time to have a more bipartisan approach to the crisis," said Harry Stevens, an Austin resident and former chairman of the DFL Mower County Party. "But I don’t think that precludes having the debate. I think the debate might be useful."

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