Will there be a debate tonight? Mississippi waits to find out

OXFORD — The University of Mississippi community went to bed Thursday still unsure whether the first 2008 presidential debate would be held here tonight.

Ole Miss officials reiterated they were moving forward with the debate, despite not having any firm indication from Republican nominee John McCain that he would attend. McCain said Wednesday he wanted to postpone the debate and suspend his campaign in light of the U.S. financial crisis. Lawmakers, including McCain and his opponent, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, met in Washington to discuss a proposed bailout of financial markets. But Thursday night The Associated Press reported a Republican revolt stalled urgent efforts for a national economic rescue plan.

Obama was planning to fly here today for the debate. McCain was still unsure Thursday night.

"I believe that it's very possible that we can get an agreement in time for me to fly to Mississippi," McCain told the AP. "I understand how important this debate is and I'm very hopeful. But I also have to put the country first."

Not long after the meeting Thursday, Obama reiterated he believed the two candidates should debate in Oxford.

Caroline Angle, a senior English and political science major from Oxford who worked on projects related to the debate, had been following the news Thursday. She believes locals have worked too hard on the debate for it to not happen.

"I think we've earned it," Angle said.

For many, the realization that the months of planning might not come to fruition came Thursday, days after the media rolled into to town to cover what some consider the biggest story to hit Ole Miss since James Meredith's 1962 integration of the campus that generated worldwide media coverage when a riot ensued and two were killed.

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