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Debate delay unpopular with Dems, public

Everyone’s getting a piece of the action on Republican presidential nominee John McCain‘s call to delay Friday’s presidential debate so he and Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama can go back to the U.S. Senate to take part in hashing out the financial-market bailout package.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.: “The American people expect their President to be calm in a crisis, not engaging in political theater, which is what John McCain is doing today. He is desperate to change the subject — everyone knows that a deregulation fever led to this crisis and John McCain helped lead the way. This is certainly the right time for the American people to see these two candidates talk about the serious challenges our country faces both here and around the world. We need a President who can handle more than one challenge at a time. In life, when times get tough, you don’t get time-outs.”

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez: “With all due respect, Sen. McCain is wrong to suggest Congress is not making progress on legislation to rescue the economy. It would be very damaging to our efforts now to inject partisan politics into this critical effort. The American people need to learn more about the person who is going to be their next president and his plan for a stable economic future. Therefore, it is vital that Senators Obama and McCain go forward with the debate Friday as scheduled. Meanwhile, Congress will continue working on economic legislation that will have strong protections for taxpayers, homeowners and consumers.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: “This is a critical time for our country. While I appreciate that both candidates have signaled their willingness to help, Congress and the Administration have a process in place to reach a solution to this unprecedented financial crisis. I understand that the candidates are putting together a joint statement at Senator Obama’s suggestion. But it would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation’s economy. If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership; not a campaign photo op. If there were ever a time for both candidates to hold a debate before the American people about this serious challenge, it is now.”

Even Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr and independent candidate Ralph Nader got into the act, issuing a joint statement: “The fact that a candidate can call for changing the date of the debate only two days before it is scheduled indicates how easy it would be for the candidates to also call for the inclusion of the leading third party and independent candidates, which would bring fresh ideas to the table on how our country can truly tackle this heavy challenge.”

And apparently, the American public isn’t hot on a delay either: Survey USA did a quick poll today which found only 10 percent support postponing the debate.

UPDATE @ 3:47 P.M.: More!

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.: “The economic crisis facing this nation is gravely serious. The stakes are high. The foreclosure crisis has spread to Wall Street and is affecting the entire economy. Congress is moving quickly. A process is underway, the House and Senate Banking committees are negotiating and working to come up with a plan that makes sense, protects the taxpayers, ensures oversight, and limits executive compensation for those who accept public dollars. Senator McCain’s announcement today won’t help find a solution. It is a distraction, at a time when sober reflection is needed. Simply put, we must not inject Presidential politics into this process.”

And… David Letterman! (per Drudge):

David Letterman tells audience that McCain called him today to tell him he had to rush back to DC to deal with the economy.

Then in the middle of the taping Dave got word that McCain was, in fact just down the street being interviewed by Katie Couric. Dave even cut over to the live video of the interview, and said, “Hey Senator, can I give you a ride home?”

Earlier in the show, Dave kept saying, “You don’t suspend your campaign. This doesn’t smell right. This isn’t the way a tested hero behaves.” And he joked: “I think someone’s putting something in his metamucil.”

“He can’t run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sara Palin. Where is she?”

“What are you going to do if you’re elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We’ve got a guy like that now!”

UPDATE @ 12:48 P.M. THURSDAY:

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.