Until or unless evidence emerges that, on the advice of Jeremiah Wright and Michael Pfleger, Tony Rezko paid for Barack Obama to take Bill Ayers' course on how to tank an economy, it's just possible that the current (final?) line of attack by Sen. John McCain doesn't precisely match this moment in the campaign.
Maybe, of course, the McCain campaign is right. Maybe shady Chicago connections involving a candidate who's been on the national stage for 18 months will trump the economy and the stock market and the housing crisis as issues for these final three-plus weeks.
"I don't care about two washed-up old terrorists that are unrepentant about trying to destroy America. But I do care, and Americans should care, about his relationship with him and whether he's being truthful and candid about," McCain, R-Ariz., told ABC's Charlie Gibson Thursday.
"I see matters of judgment and truthfulness and ambition," Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, said on the stump Thursday.
Or maybe the answer is to tie the big storylines together. New from the McCain campaign Friday: An ad that casually drops the L-word and touches on both Ayers to the economic distress, with Democrats portrayed as anti-regulation.
The ad: "Obama's blind ambition. When convenient, he worked with terrorist Bill Ayers. When discovered, he lied. Obama. Blind ambition. Bad judgment. Congressional liberals fought for risky sub-prime loans. Congressional liberals fought against more regulation. Then, the housing market collapsed, costing you billions. In crisis, we need leadership, not bad judgment."
The RNC is putting Ayers (and others) into play, too -- with a new ad launching in Indiana and Wisconsin featuring Ayers, Rezko, and William Daley. "There's more you need to know," says the ad.
But if Team McCain is wrong (and the stock market seems to be rendering a political verdict daily on what Americans should care about, and Obama will have a block of primetime television a week before the election to weigh in like McCain can't) -- get ready for an ugly stretch.
Not just on the trail, either -- here come the internal campaign splits that are the real signs of a campaign that's losing focus amid the prospect of losing:
"Sen. John McCain has allowed a series of increasingly harsh broadsides in new campaign ads and in speeches by his wife, Cindy, and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin. But the Arizona Republican has rejected pleas from some advisers to launch attacks focusing on Sen. Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright," Monica Langley and Elizabeth Holmes report in The Wall Street Journal.
Is someone setting him or (her) self up to say told-you-so? "Sen. McCain vetoed proposals to attack the Illinois senator for his 20 years as a member of the church led by Rev. Wright, whose harsh comments about racism in America and other issues created problems for Sen. Obama during the Democratic primary contest," Langley and Holmes continue.
Even Wright-less, McCain's current strategy is working, if the intent is to play to folks in the base who are against something, anything, everything:
"What has been most striking about the last 48 hours on the campaign trail is the increasingly hostile atmosphere at Mr. McCain's rallies, where voters furiously booed any mention of Mr. Obama and lashed out at the Democrats, Wall Street and the news media," Elisabeth Bumiller and Patrick Healy write in The New York Times.