Herein lies McCain's hope. The country wants change, but it has not concluded it wants Obama. But if John McCain cannot raise grave doubts about his agenda, his associates, his record, his character, his fitness to be president, Obama is going to win by default.
Obama has succeeded in the debates by playing defense. By his cool demeanor and persona, he has diminished apprehensions about an Obama presidency. There is no evidence of surging enthusiasm.
The Obama media are well aware of Obama's Achilles' heel, his great vulnerability, the doubts about him that still exist in the public mind. That is why they are near hysterical about Palin's ripping of Obama for "palling around" with "domestic terrorists" like William Ayres, the 1960s and 1970s Weatherman radical who conspired to bomb the Capitol and Pentagon and was quoted the morning of 9-11 as saying he wished he had set off more bombs.
The mainstream media call this irrelevant, as it was so long ago.
Yet, can one imagine how the media would have reacted had they learned that a GOP presidential nominee was introduced to politics and worked in harness with a KKK bomber of black churches in the 1960s, who was quoted the morning of Oklahoma City as saying he wished he had planted more bombs?
As McCain is an establishment man on illegal aliens, NAFTA and Wall Street bailouts, uneasy with social issues like affirmative action and abortion, he lacks the full panoply of weapons that successful Republicans like Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bush II used to win two terms. He seems to confine himself to the limited arsenal Gerald Ford, Bush 1 and Bob Dole employed when they went down to defeat.
This election is not over. Yet, even if McCain gets a bit of luck, a dead cat bounce on Wall Street, he must persuade the nation Obama is an unacceptable occupant of the White House if he is to win.
Palin appears ready to take the heat to make that case. But McCain seems ambivalent to the point of being bipolar on whether he wants to take responsibility for peeling the hide off Barack Obama.
Perhaps it comes down to what McCain really thinks about an Obama presidency, and how he wants to be remembered by history.