Judging from the cornucopia of all things debate-related here in the center of Oxford, Mississippi (at the Bottletree Bakery in the center of town, this rendering of John and Cindy McCain was for sale for $8000), McCain’s absence would not have gone over well at all. Besides the contemporary art, storefronts painted with elephants and donkeys sold debate-themed t-shirts and bunting hung from the brick facades of local bars. Venders sold Obama shirts and BBQ under a sign that said "Obamaland," and McCain signs were draped from the windows of charming Ole Miss frat houses. On a temporary stage, musicians played bluegrass music for a few hundred college kids wearing candidate buttons was called “Rock the Debate.”
There were also stark reminders about the serious circumstances within which tonight’s debate will transpire. On Jackson Avenue, leading to the university’s main entrance, a succession of lawn signs in front of respectable-looking homes read "Open House," "Price Reduced," and "Yard for Rent."