This is a telling quote from top McCain aide Mark Salter in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg:
McCain won’t even use Rev. Wright, out of an abundance of caution. So he raises the next guy, Bill Ayers, and you know what we get? We get called racist. How is that racist? You got me.
So, McCain was afraid to bring up the Rev Wright issue –though Obama had a close 20 year relationship with him — and thus decided to spend weeks on the more tenuous Ayers association. I’m still of the opinion that the long primary battle with Hillary Clinton benefited Obama by allowing him to get the Wright issue out of the way months before it could do maximum damage. But the Salter quote is revealing in another way. McCain spent a long time courting his “base” in the media and adapting his behavior to remain in their good graces, but what he’s now finding out is what most of us have long known — that liberal journalists will do their best to portray any Republican in the worst possible light. The only difference this time is that when they criticize the GOP candidate, it’s to set up a contrast between the “new McCain” and the “old McCain.”
I think the Salter comment also reinforces the mixed message of the McCain campaign, which could be summarized: “I want to run a respectful campaign and reach across party lines, so don’t vote for that little socialist schmuck.”