Sure, John McCain is a MAVERICK, but there is, as many voters have learned, a flipside to that. The Republican presidential nominee can be impulsive and temperamental, and it's only been getting worse toward the end of the campaign, making past incidents, like his hollering at Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller or his meltdown in front of the New Republic's Jeff Dearth, look like part of a very real pattern. Last night's debate was probably the last straw. McCain posted his worst-yet ratings in the post-debate polls, with his numbers falling most sharply, within live-reaction panels, in the wake of his comments on William Ayers, ACORN and opponent Barack Obama's alleged negative campaigning (which voters were predisposed not to believe). His incessant face-pulling, insane blinking and cranky interrupting (see videos after the jump) were equally destructive to his cause.
Like Hillary Clinton before him, McCain has allow himself to behave as the bitter, entitled political veteran, defeated again and again by a calm and competent rival. And circumstances are unlikely to rescue McCain from his inept performance and deteriorating poll numbers. Obama's winning issue, the economy, looks likely to remain a preeminent concern straight through to the election. Witness the sharp stock market decline Wednesday, even in the wake of still more unprecedented support for banks from federal officials.
After suffering upset defeats in 2000 and 2004, and while fighting the perception that Obama is cocky, Democrats and other observers are by and large reluctant to call the election for Obama with two weeks left to go. But McCain is now out of options and far behind. Even if he were to suddenly conjure a strategy that could significantly improve his numbers, he'll be undermined at every turn by the fallout from his angry theatrics last night, captured brilliantly in videos like the two below. Only a miracle, or some very dirty dirt on Obama, can save him now.