The Note: Now Batting, No. 44

But it's not just the Times: "Almost up until the time it was taken over by the government in the nation's financial crisis, one of two housing giants paid $15,000 a month to the lobbying firm of John McCain's campaign manager, a person familiar with the financial arrangement says," the AP's Pete Yost writes. "The money from Freddie Mac to the firm of Rick Davis is on top of more than $30,000 a month that went directly to Davis for five years starting in 2000."

It's not just the Times and the AP: "The firm, Davis Manafort, has collected $15,000 a month from the organization since late 2005, when Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae dissolved a five-year-old advocacy group that Davis earned nearly $2 million leading, the sources said," Roll Call's Tory Newmyer reports.

It's not just the Times and the AP and Newsweek: "Since 2006, the federally sponsored mortgage giant Freddie Mac has paid at least $345,000 to the lobbying and consulting firm of John McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis, according to two sources familiar with the arrangement," Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports.

Says David Donnelly, Director of Campaign Money Watch: "John McCain's campaign manager and Freddie Mac essentially had what amounts to a secret half a million dollar lay-a-way plan."

Back on the bailout bill, still no commitments, from either candidate, beyond new sets of principles: "The financial meltdown is bedeviling both candidates, who know the Nov. 4 election could turn on voters' sense of who can best keep the country from a deep recession," Charles Babington reports for the AP. "They have acted cautiously so far, avoiding the intense debate in Congress and offering similar calls for greater oversight and taxpayer protections, which rank among the less controversial criticisms of the plan."

"John McCain and Barack Obama both talked Tuesday about the urgency of Congress passing legislation bailing out the financial sector, but refrained from saying they'd back the bill if it failed to meet conditions they set for changing it," Matthew Dolan and Corey Dade write in The Wall Street Journal. "Sen. McCain declined to say if he saw any deal-breakers that could force him to vote against the proposal. He said that Democrats in Congress waiting to see if he would support the legislation should instead focus on the nature of the financial crisis and not worry about his vote."

They could hammer out a pretty good deal just between the two of them: "For all their disputes, the plans put forward by the pair are nearly identical in important respects," Peter Nicholas and Bob Drogin report in the Los Angeles Times. "Both candidates said they were uncomfortable with the sweeping powers the Bush proposal would give to the secretary of the Treasury. They recommended creation of an independent board that would oversee the rescue."

In all of this -- a chance for McCain? "For a man who's sworn to keep us safe, McCain seems to have been presented with a new opportunity," Sridhar Pappu writes for the Washington Independent. "McCain now has the chance to use the nation's economic straits to his advantage, to take ownership of an issue that could dominate the national debate through Election Day and after. He can be the steady force of reason -- a candidate who puts the public ahead of party for the greater good."

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