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The honeymoon is over. McCain's perception as a maverick is fading fast among votes and in the media. Instead, decisions once praised as forward-thinking are coming off as risky and reckless. Today's buzz: will Sarah Palin's performance during the VP debate Thursday seal McCain fate?

  • Team McCain can no longer hide Sarah Palin from the media spotlight and she is going to be exposed for the under-qualified candidate she is during the debate, writes Mike Lupica in the NY Daily News. Take-away: "Palin can't save McCain and neither can publicity stunts."

... Also, the DN questioned Palin's preparedness in a piece that ran on Sunday and many are calling for her to step down from the ticket entirely...

  • McCain is fighting a losing battle and he has one shot to make it work, writes Bill Kristol in the NYT. If McCain can buck his aides' advice and liberate Palin from their protection he could win. Take-away: "He has a chance. But only if he overrules those of his aides who are trapped by conventional wisdom, huddled in a defensive crouch and overcome by ideological timidity."
  • This should've been McCain's month to shine, writes E.J. Dionne Jr. in the WaPo. Instead, the maverick is struggling in the polls and his choices -- his running mate, the campaign suspension -- appear reckless. Take-away: "McCain, once the candidate of tested experience, must now battle the perception that he has become the riskier choice." 
  • The McCain camp's allegations that the NYT is "150 percent in the tank" for Obama was another desperate move from the  campaign, writes Gregory Rodriguez in the LAT. Take-away: "If conservatives care so much about the truth, why then do they condone the GOP's constant haranguing about media bias, with its emphasis on knee-jerk, blanket charges of partisanship?"
  • Either way, writes the Washington Times, the debate on Thursday is going to be must-see TV.
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