Commentary: Sam Donaldson Says 'John McCain Is in Trouble'

The following is a commentary by ABC News' Sam Donaldson. Click here to view a video version of his latest essay.

On this day of the second presidential debate, Republican presidential nominee John McCain is in trouble and there really doesn't seem to be much he can do about it.

If the two candidates and the national mood, turned dark because of the financial crisis, continue in place for the next 28 days, McCain will almost certainly lose the election.

McCain is simply being crushed by the economic disaster and ensuing worry -- bordering on panic -- that has followed. (Hey if you've just lost your job or the money in your retirement stock portfolio you're entitled to a little panic.) The majority of Americans, rightly or wrongly, say they trust the Democrats and Sen. Barack Obama to deal with this crisis more than McCain and the Republicans.

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Both candidates have made some mistakes -- and you can believe one of McCain's was selecting Gov. Sarah Palin to run with him if you wish -- but it's not mistakes that have put McCain in this spot. It's the times.

So, what could turn this around? Probably only two things: Obama could make some huge, game-changing error, but given the careful way he's proceeded to date and the fact that candidates who are ahead don't have to take chances, there isn't a lot of expectation that that will happen.

The second thing is that events, call it fate if you will, could take a hand. Should some huge foreign policy or security crisis occur, which would play to McCain's perceived strength, causing Americans to forget their pocketbooks and look to the safety of their skins -- that might do it.

Surely throwing a "Bill Ayers the former terrorist" at Obama -- or throwing a "Keating Five" at McCain in return, will have no effect on the race. It's too late to make the race about character; to most Americans, the race is now about survival and well-being of one sort or another.

I'm not calling the election, mind you, but I am laying out the situation. If McCain wins, he can thank not his smarts but his lucky stars.

Sam Donaldson, a 41-year ABC News veteran, served two appointments as chief White House correspondent for ABC News, from 1977-1989 and from January 1998 to August 1999, covering Presidents Carter, Reagan and Clinton. Donaldson also co-anchored, with Diane Sawyer, "PrimeTime Live," from August 1989 until it merged with "20/20" in 1999. He co-anchored the ABC News Sunday morning broadcast, "This Week With Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts," from December 1996 to September 2002. Currently, Donaldson appears on ABC News Now, the ABC News digital network, in a daily show called "Politics Live."

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