As I said Wednesday, I think there was a real potential that John McCain could benefit politically from his decision to "suspend" his campaign and threaten a cancellation of the debate scheduled for tonight.
But now that the debate is back on and he's resuming his campaign without having accomplished anything, the chance that McCain will benefit from this looks exceedingly slim.
This was all about making him look like a leader, like someone who reaches across the aisle to get things done when the American people face a crisis. Instead, there's a rapidly solidifying consensus that his presence was an impediment to a deal. And that appears to be hurting him; two of the major daily tracking polls -- Hotline and Rasmussen -- show Barack Obama gaining significant ground. (Gallup has the race tied.)
One sign of how worried the McCain camp is about this is its messaging about blame for the chaos in Washington, D.C. I've already posted its statement announcing that McCain will debate, which accuses Barack Obama of playing politics. That was also the angle McCain spokesman Brian Rogers took in a memo he sent around Thursday night:
At today's cabinet meeting, John McCain did not attack any proposal or endorse any plan. John McCain simply urged that for any proposal to enjoy the confidence of the American people, stressing that all sides would have to cooperate and build a bipartisan consensus for a solution that protects taxpayers.
However, the Democrats allowed Senator Obama to run their side of the meeting. That did not work as the meeting quickly devolved into a contentious shouting match that did not seek to craft a bipartisan solution ...
Tomorrow, John McCain will return to Capitol Hill where he will work with all sides to build a bipartisan solution that protects taxpayers and keeps Americans in their homes.
It's worth noting, by the way, that most legislation begins with a "small, select group of members of Congress." In this case, that "small, select group" included leaders of both parties in the Senate, as well as the House Democratic leadership.