Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain are facing-off at this hour in the much-awaited first U.S. presidential debate before the November general election.
Tens of millions of people are expected to watch the debate between the two senators in Oxford, Mississippi. The debate is to focus on foreign policy and national security, but with deep concern over the financial crisis, the candidates are also expected to discuss the economy.
Up until Friday morning, it was unclear if the debate would even take place, as McCain called for a delay to return to Washington and address the financial crisis. Obama said he would be at the venue regardless.
But McCain's campaign early Friday said significant progress has been made in addressing the crisis and that the Arizona senator will attend.
Two more presidential debates are scheduled -- October 7th and October 15th. The vice presidential nominees, Republican Sarah Palin and Democrat Joe Biden, will face-off October second.
McCain announced Wednesday he was temporarily suspending his campaign to take part in negotiations in Washington on the Bush administration's financial rescue plan.
Obama rejected McCain's call to delay the debate.
The Illinois senator said that with the election just 40 days away, the U.S. economy in crisis and the nation fighting two wars abroad, Americans deserve to hear directly from the two candidates on how they intend to lead the country.