Why does John McCain suddenly want to suspend his presidential campaign and postpone Friday's debate? His campaign surrogates are saying it's a typical "maverick" move, that McCain is simply "putting country first." Let's look at the evidence:
1) As Ben Smith notes, McCain's move "is a mark, most of all, that he doesn't like the way this campaign is going. ... The only thing that's changed in the last 48 hours is the public polling."
2) The idea of uniting the campaigns to find a bipartisan solution to the Wall Street crisis wasn't even McCain's idea. A few minutes ago, Obama spokesman Bill Burton emailed to reporters:
"At 8:30 this morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain to ask him if he would join in issuing a joint statement outlining their shared principles and conditions for the Treasury proposal and urging Congress and the White House to act in a bipartisan manner to pass such a proposal. At 2:30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator Obama's call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement. The two campaigns are currently working together on the details."
3) John McCain has skipped more votes during this session than any member of the Senate except for Tim Johnson, who had major brain surgery. He hasn't cast a single vote in five months, since April 9. All of a sudden, McCain is demanding that the presidential race shut down so he can return to Washington?
4) A reminder: President Bush was able to debate John Kerry while he was president. For all of his sudden urgency, McCain acknowledged just yesterday that he had not even read the administration's three-page bailout proposal.
5) It's not at all clear that having McCain and Obama back in DC will actually help. "What does seem apparent, though, is that putting the two candidates in the negotiating room is far more likely to distract--and derail--negotiations than having them out on the hustings," Jonathan Cohn writes at the New Republic.
It's impossible to know why McCain chose this course, but it sure seems like more of a political stunt than a maverick moment.