Ole Miss wants a townhall with The One if Maverick bails, but don’t expect the Debate Commission to participate, says Frank Fahrenkopf. To do so would constitute an in-kind campaign contribution. Where would that leave us tonight, though? If Obama’s willing and the university’s willing and the networks (surely) are willing, can’t they just usher Jim Lehrer and Commission personnel out the door and go on with the show?

Probably a moot question: Grahamnesty’s already lowering the bar for what needs to happen on the hill today to get McCain to go. And Obama’s encouraging him not to be, ahem, “fearful.”

Update: Just into my inbox, half an hour before Fahrenkopf’s noon deadline, the inevitable announcement that Maverick will not, in fact, be ceding a national spotlight to Barack Obama.

Statement By McCain Campaign On Negotiations

John McCain’s decision to suspend his campaign was made in the hopes that politics could be set aside to address our economic crisis.

In response, Americans saw a familiar spectacle in Washington. At a moment of crisis that threatened the economic security of American families, Washington played the blame game rather than work together to find a solution that would avert a collapse of financial markets without squandering hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ money to bailout bankers and brokers who bet their fortunes on unsafe lending practices.

Both parties in both houses of Congress and the administration needed to come together to find a solution that would deserve the trust of the American people. And while there were attempts to do that, much of yesterday was spent fighting over who would get the credit for a deal and who would get the blame for failure. There was no deal or offer yesterday that had a majority of support in Congress. There was no deal yesterday that included adequate protections for the taxpayers. It is not enough to cut deals behind closed doors and then try to force it on the rest of Congress — especially when it amounts to thousands of dollars for every American family.

The difference between Barack Obama and John McCain was apparent during the White House meeting yesterday where Barack Obama’s priority was political posturing in his opening monologue defending the package as it stands. John McCain listened to all sides so he could help focus the debate on finding a bipartisan resolution that is in the interest of taxpayers and homeowners. The Democratic interests stood together in opposition to an agreement that would accommodate additional taxpayer protections.

Senator McCain has spent the morning talking to members of the Administration, members of the Senate, and members of the House. He is optimistic that there has been significant progress toward a bipartisan agreement now that there is a framework for all parties to be represented in negotiations, including Representative Blunt as a designated negotiator for House Republicans. The McCain campaign is resuming all activities and the Senator will travel to the debate this afternoon. Following the debate, he will return to Washington to ensure that all voices and interests are represented in the final agreement, especially those of taxpayers and homeowners.

Do we know yet which proposal, exactly, McCain supports? Or is he going to leave off at having gotten the House GOP back to the table to discuss “taxpayer protections”?

Update: Sounds like the latter. “We need a deal. We need a deal. We need a deal.”

John McCain made an urgent appeal to House Republicans at their 9:30 leadership meeting Friday morning.

A senior House GOP leadership aide involved in the negotiations described McCain’s message this way, “We need a deal. We need a deal. We need a deal.”…

House Republicans seem poised to cave on this (says one House Republican, “We don’t want to be seen as obstructionists”), although they have been assured that some of their ideas can be incorporated into the final deal.

Specifically, House GOP leaders want the bill to include federal mortgage insurance as an alternative to the wholesale buying of mortgage securities.

Update: Geraghty thinks McCain should have skipped it, camped out at the Capitol, and delivered progress reports for the GOP while The One floundered at a townhall meeting. I disagree. Hill Democrats would have spent the evening howling about how McCain’s presence has only made things worse and Obama doubtless would have used the time at the townhall to push his own economic plan. We’ve had no fewer than three polls thus far show that majorities wanted the debate to go on. The public will want to know why McCain couldn’t have spared a few hours and he won’t have a good answer.

Update: Make that four polls. A new one from the AP shows a 60/22 split on whether the debate should go on.