The McCain/Palin team should have driven home the idea that there is no free lunch, that when government attempts to create wealth by fiat -- by simply declaring that "mortgages for everyone" is the new rule and let's not look too closely at how we pay for this -- reality will catch up with you in the end.
Having firmly placed blame on the Democrats for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- the kernel of this disaster -- McCain could have polished his maverick credentials by criticizing the Bush administration and some Republicans for the excessive spending they, too, indulged. The great sin this crisis has unveiled is that of excessive debt --government debt, to be sure, but also excessive personal debt. It would have been risky, but McCain would have looked statesmanlike if he had told voters that all of us must henceforth change our ways: from government relying on borrowing from foreigners to individuals running up charges on credit cards. He could have said that capitalism is the greatest engine of wealth creation the world has ever seen. But like democratic government, it requires discipline to succeed. By distorting the natural brakes on lending, Democrats disrupted the self-correcting mechanisms of an otherwise very successful system. Democrats, not Republicans, sought to privatize the rewards (think Franklin Raines, Jim Johnson, Chris Dodd, Jamie Gorelick, and all of the Democrats who got fat campaign contributions from Fannie and Freddie) and socialize the risks of home mortgages.
Then McCain should have pointed out that Barack Obama has relied on style (aloof and cool) not substance in his response to the financial crisis. He may impress voters by his demeanor, but his promised actions (higher taxes, trade protectionism, more unionization of the workforce, and much more government spending) are the very policies that can transform an economic downturn into a depression.