I agree that if this is all there is, I don’t see this story being a huge long-term problem for McCain. From the very opening, the story is written passively, “Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.” And that’s pretty much how the piece is framed–through the perspective of staffers who were concerned about the appearance of impropriety, because the NYT doesn’t seem to have the goods on anything actually done wrong. Also, there’s the extraneous background about the Keating 5 scandal. This would be a big story if 1) It were clear McCain had an affair 2) He used his influence as a Senator to help his mistress’s clients and 3) The clients had something tangible to show for his efforts (a government contract, a favorable regulatory ruling, etc.). If at least two of those things were substantiated it would do great damage to McCain’s image as a man of integrity, and the sex angle would give the story legs. But all we have to go on right now is the NYT piece, which has a lot of smoke but no fire. So, we’ll have to see in the next days and weeks whether more details will emerge to corroborate the carefully-made insinuations in this article. Otherwise, the real controversy will be over why the NYT delayed publication of this story–evidently initially planned for December–until right after McCain essentially clinched the nomination.