The Note: Now Batting, No. 44

Sen. John McCain used to say he'd rather lose an election than lose a war. Well -- what about an economy, senator?

This is a moment for presidential leadership, a chance for a Mr. September -- and it's McCain who has the most at stake in how he handles the bailout bill nobody loves but everybody seems to realize you cannot in good faith hate.

The measure is a tempting target for McCain to ramp up the populism and signal a major break with President Bush -- and maybe leave Sen. Barack Obama clinging to an unpopular bag. But actions have consequences -- and McCain's actions could be particularly consequential given the curious politics of this most curious of measures.

"If Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain doesn't vote for the Bush administration's $700 billion economic bailout plan, some Republican and Democratic congressional leaders tell ABC News the plan won't pass," per ABC's George Stephanopoulos.

"If McCain doesn't come out for this, it's over," a top House Republican tells ABC.

As for Democrats: "A Democratic leadership source says that White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has been told that Democratic votes will not be there if McCain votes no -- that there is no deal if McCain doesn't go along," Stephanopoulos reports.

"McCain's aides say he has not made up his mind, and one [aide] told me that McCain is determined to, quote, 'be the champion of the little guy here,' " Stephanopoulos reported on "World News."

ABC's Jake Tapper: "Senior Democrats on the Hill are worried that Sen. McCain, R-Ariz., will 'demagogue' the bill, continue to voice opposition to it, use it to run against both Wall Street and Congress, as well as to distance himself from the Bush White House. Democrats worry McCain will not only vote against the bill, he will provide cover for other Republicans to do so, leaving Democrats holding the bag for the Bush administration's deeply unpopular proposal."

Why wait for January when we could use a president today? (And why wait another day when the race's dynamics are shifting by the hour?)

Your much-altered race, swirled by the economic wake: "Barack Obama has seized the reins of economic discontent, vaulting over John McCain's convention gains by persuading voters he both better understands their economic troubles and can better address them," ABC's Gary Langer writes. "Fifty-three percent of registered voters in this new ABC News/Washington Post poll call the economy the single most important issue in the election, up 12 points in two weeks to an extraordinary level of agreement."

"He's recovered to a 14-point lead over McCain in trust to handle the economy, and leads by 13 points specifically in trust to deal with the meltdown of major financial institutions," Langer writes -- and trust in other areas falls into place around the big ones.

It's 52-43 among likely voters, the first statistically significant lead either candidate has had this election in this poll -- and the first time in the past three election cycles that the Democratic candidate has broken 50 percent in am ABC/Post pre-election poll. (Last McCain bastion? McCain 72, Obama 48, on who would make a good commander-in-chief.)

Per George Stephanopoulos -- not since 1948 has a candidate with a lead this big this late lost the election.

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