John McCain hadde en håpløs oppgave, men gjorde den enda vanskeligere ved å ødelegge sitt største fortrinn, sin egen integritet. Kampanjen har aldri hatt et klart budskap. McCain har dårlig kunnet skjule sin frustrasjon. Negativ kampanje har bare gjort stemningen dårligere, unntatt hos dem som trives med bakholdsangrep.
McCain lot seg overtale til å strekke ut hånden til det republikanske konservative grunnfjellet, men ødela dermed sin appell til de uavhengige. Slik sikk-sakk-kurs ødelegger ofte for appellen i begge leire. Ingen blir helt fornøyd.
«John ran a campaign in 2000 that was honourable and that he knew would have made his grandfather [an admiral] very proud,» said a friend and adviser who talks to the candidate several times a week.
«One of John’s deep regrets is that he gave into the advice of his council of political advisers who urged him to appeal to the base. He would dearly have loved to have selected Joe Lieberman as his running mate. It is eating him up.»
Then there are the «realist» Republicans who worry that Mr McCain has been captured by neoconservative advisers, such as Randy Schuenemann, his chief foreign policy guru, who has helped shape the candidate’s relatively hardline stance on Russia, Iran and other issues.
This has combined with Mr McCain’s tendency to view foreign policy as a kind of «morality play» in which there are people who oppose America and people who do not, they say. Foreign policy was a key reason why Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, chose to endorse Mr Obama on Sunday.
Dermed gikk noe av glansen av McCains prinsippfasthet i utenrikspolitikken. Obama fremsto som sofistikert. McCain snakket om sine krigserfaringer.
Flere konservative kommentatorer har gjerne villet rose McCain, men hver gang må de skuffet konstatere at han ikke greier å leve opp til forventningene. Det han har levert er for dårlig. Valget av Sarah Palin var hasardiøst. Hun var rett og slett ikke kvalifisert, og det skremte mange kommentatorer og eksperter at McCain kunne være så dumdristig. Dermed falt en av de viktigste argumentene mot Obama til marken, hans manglende erfaring.
Palin appellerte dessuten til en del av grasrota som er på kant med McCains mer åpne linje. De ønsker patriotisme først. Nå bites hestene. Det ligger an til full krig innen det republikanske partiet, først om skylda for at det gikk galt og dernest om fremtidig linje.
Flere toneangivende konservative kommentatorer fremhever Obamas kvaliteter, og må konstatere at McCain ikke holder mål.
Staunch Republican commentators, such as Charles Krauthammer and David Brooks, have come close to endorsing Mr McCain’s rival by citing Mr Obama’s «first-class temperament» – a reference to a comment by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jnr on Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Completing Oliver Holmes’s dictum – that FDR had a «second-class intellect» – Mr Buckley said: «Obama not only has a first-class temperament but he also has a first-class intellect. There is no doubt that John is very bright but you know Obama writes his own books. John gets his books written for him [by Mark Salter, his closest aide].»
Amerikanere som betyr noe liker klasse, og Obama har klasse.
Det er symptomatisk at Wall Street Journal støtter Obama. Flere kjente republikanere gjør det samme, blant dem George W. Bushs taleskriver David Frum. Han tror GOP går rett ned hvis det velger høyreveien.
Mr Frum argues that just as America is changing, so the Republican Party must adapt its economic message and find more to say about healthcare and the environment if it is to survive.
He said: «I don’t know that there’s a lot of realism in the Republican Party. We have an economic message that is largely irrelevant to most people.
«Cutting personal tax rates is not the answer to everything. The Bush years were largely prosperous but while national income was up the numbers for most individuals were not. Republicans find that a hard fact to process.»
Other Republicans have jumped ship completely. Ken Adelman, a Pentagon adviser on the Iraq war, Matthew Dowd, who was Mr Bush’s chief re-election strategist, and Scott McClellan, Mr Bush’s former press secretary, have all endorsed Mr Obama.
But the real bile has been saved for those conservatives who have balked at the selection of Sarah Palin.
In addition to Mr Frum, who thinks her not ready to be president, Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan’s greatest speechwriter and a columnist with the Wall Street Journal, condemned Mr McCain’s running mate as a «symptom and expression of a new vulgarisation of American politics.» Conservative columnist David Brooks called her a «fatal cancer to the Republican Party».
The backlash that ensued last week revealed the fault lines of the coming civil war.
Rush Limbaugh, the doyen of right wing talk radio hosts, denounced Noonan, Brooks and Frum. Neconservative writer Charles Krauthammer condemned «the rush of wet-fingered conservatives leaping to Barack Obama», while fellow columnist Tony Blankley said that instead of collaborating in heralding Mr Obama’s arrival they should be fighting «in a struggle to the political death for the soul of the country».
During the primaries the Democratic Party was bitterly divided between Barack Obama’s «latte liberals» and Hillary Clinton’s heartland supporters, but now the same cultural division threatens to tear the Republican Party apart.
Obama har greid å samle demokratene, som kan få flertall i begge kamre. Det sies at Obama kan bli den mektigste presidenten i nyere tid.