Bluff called.

Barack Obama is committed to hosting a public, televised event Friday night in Mississippi even if John McCain does not show up, a source close to the Obama campaign tells the Huffington Post.

The Senator, the source says, 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 in McCain’s absence.

Is McCain prepared to hand The One a 90-minute campaign commercial in front of a national audience? I’m guessing no, in which case expect him to decide tomorrow morning that the bailout’s close enough to being done to qualify as “done,” whereupon he’ll declare victory and hop a plane for Ole Miss. The second poll on his decision to postpone the debate is just out from Marist, incidentally, and while the numbers aren’t as dramatic as yesterday’s Survey USA data, he’s still on the wrong side. 53 percent want the show to go on, including 53 percent of independents.

Exit question via Bill Clinton: How come Obama’s suddenly gung ho for a town hall in McCain’s absence after he declined Maverick’s offer for a series of them earlier this year?

Update: Skipping the debate could be especially dicey with independents, among whom McCain’s surging right now. See the new numbers from Franklin & Marshall noting that Obama’s seven-point lead among indies in June is now a six-point lead for Maverick. That jibes with the NBC and LAT polls yesterday showing a huge swing. But for how long? Pew offers this:

Follow the link and eyeball the first graph for the overall trend. He’s playing with fire if he doesn’t show.