The Note: General Malaise

All Sen. John McCain needs is one new storyline -- but Sen. Barack Obama went out and found three.

You could find one in the masses of humanity that greeted Obama in St. Louis and Kansas City over the weekend.

A second resided somewhere in the $150 million Obama collected in September. (Is there anywhere he can't play now?)

A third burst through in the only endorsement still out there that carries any weight. (Is this the true Palin effect?)

(What better day for a fourth? With early voting starting in Florida, Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton hold their first joint rally since June Monday evening in Orlando. Remember when these events were going to mean endless drama? Neither does Team McCain.)

(And it's the swing-state Series -- question one for candidates: Rays or Phillies? Florida or Pennsylvania? Per ABC's John Berman, Obama has already declared himself a Phillies fan for the month -- and they may know how to boo at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.)

Colin Powell's endorsement stings McCain from a few different directions: with independent voters, with Republicans, with anyone thinking about Obama but harboring a final few doubts.

For several precious days, perhaps, it keeps McCain from changing the subject -- even Sarah Palin at 30 Rock ("laughing with her . . . or at her?" "Good Morning America" asks Monday) -- couldn't trump this one.

The map continuing to slip, his opponent continuing to pour it on, party unity crumbling, McCain needs to break through the queasiness in GOP camps with a bold campaign message -- a final argument for the final stretch.

Yet Powell's endorsement has the power to live for a few more news cycles in part because it was coupled with an indictment of McCain's campaign -- on Bill Ayers, on the economy, and running through a running-mate selection "that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Sen. McCain made."

In its sweep, Powell's lasting impact may be that he rendered McCain's last best weapons ineffective.

"His stamp of approval is likely to improve Obama's already favorable chances in once-reliable Republican states such as Virginia, and with the military community," The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung reports. "In explaining his decision, Powell was more critical of the Republican Party and McCain's campaign than of the candidate himself."

Would this have happened if McCain had chosen someone other than Sarah Palin? Powell tells the Post his decision to endorse was "emerging since the conventions, when I heard the convention speeches, saw who the vice presidential candidates were and then watched the debates."

The Palin choice "pushed this over the edge," ABC's George Stephanopoulos reported on "Good Morning America" Monday. "This wasn't just an endorsement of Barack Obama. This was a rejection of Sen. McCain, President Bush, and the Republican Party. . . . It was very direct, and very cutting."

It's the "latest sign that the Republican Party's coalition is fracturing amid the stresses of the campaign," The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman and Amy Chozick write. "Late last week, conservative radio talk-show host Michael Smerconish endorsed Sen. Obama, as did conservative columnist Christopher Buckley, the son of National Review founder William F. Buckley. The Chicago Tribune endorsed Sen. Obama last week, the first time the paper has endorsed a Democrat in its 161-year history."

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