So how the hell does John McCain pull this one out of the bag? Even the conservative commentators think the national economic crash has doomed him. Bill O'Reilly said Tuesday the Republican presidential nominee needed to do well at the debate or "say goodbye," and he didn't do well at all. Now comes Joe Scarborough on last night's Colbert Report saying "it's too late" for McCain because he can't win on tax cuts or a sexy VP or terrorist fearmongering or just general demagoguery when voters are scared of starving in the streets.

Setting aside his tactical blunders, McCain heads a party deeply divided on the campaign's central issue, the economy. If the showdown between Bush and Congressional Republicans over the Wall Street bailout didn't illustrate the fissure clearly enough, the public loss of faith by populist conservatives O'Reilly and Scarborough should do the job nicely.

For all his problems, one can't escape the uneasy feeling that McCain may very well sacrifice what remains of his dignity in a desperate, last-ditch shot at victory-via-dirty tricks. It almost certainly wouldn't work. But an October Surprise — well beyond the attempt to brand Obama a Bill Ayers-loving terrorist — would cause real pain in a nation that has already had more than enough this month. And that, my friends, would suck!