Here are two pessimistic takes on John McCain's chances, from people who should know.
First, Howard Wolfson, who was communications director for Hillary Clinton's presidential run, writing at his blog for The New Republic:
[T]ake it to a well capitalized bank: Bill Ayers isn't going to save John McCain. The race is over.
John McCain's candidacy is as much a casualty of Wall Street as Lehman or Merrill. Like those once vibrant institutions, McCain's collapse was stunning and quick. One minute you are a well-respected brand. The next you are yelling at the messengers of your demise as all around you the numbers start blinking red and stop adding up...
An election dominated at its inception by the war in Iraq is now overwhelmingly focused on the economy. More than half of voters in polls say that the economy is their top concern and Senator Obama enjoys double digit leads among voters asked who can better fix our economic mess. Put simply, there is no way Senator McCain can win if he continues to trail Senator Obama by double digits on the top concern of more than half of voters...
This dynamic is very unlikely to change. John McCain's goal in the first debate was to discredit Senator Obama as a credible Commander in Chief and elevate the issue of foreign policy and national security. He didn't come close. Absent a domestic terror attack the economy will remain the number one issue in the race, and there is little Senator McCain can do to make up his gap with Senator Obama on it. Oh, Senator McCain will try to make issues of Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko and Rev. Wright, and that might hurt Senator Obama around the margins -- but it will not prevent him from winning. The economy is simply bigger than the rogues gallery that John McCain is conjuring up.
And here's prominent Republican strategist Mike Murphy, who worked for McCain in 2000, writing at Time's Swampland blog:
McCain is in trouble in Michigan for the same reason he is in trouble in GOP leaning Florida and North Carolina; when it come to strategy Team Obama is throwing the McCain High Command around the room like stunt men in a Bruce Lee picture. The terrain of the election has shifted mightily to economic fear and Obama is moving his campaign to exploit that. Meanwhile the McCain campaign retains its lamentable focus on press tactics at the expense of a real strategy... For the last nine weeks the McCain campaign has tried win by raising Obama's negatives. Ads have attacked, McCain and Palin have attacked. This has failed. Over the top negative attacks and a campaign message that too often seems to be little more than sarcasm and suppressed anger has damaged McCain's priceless and hard earned "brand" as a different kind of Republican. McCain's best option now is to ditch the chainsaw and offer a scared and angry country what it badly wants; hope and leadership.
Palin should drop the braying attacks on Obama's aging hippie bomber pals and start connecting to her cherished hockey moms on the one issue they are actually worried about; a quickly slowing economy...
McCain is losing. To regain a chance to win, McCain must run as who he truly is; pragmatic, tough, bi-partisan and ready to break some special interest china to get the right things done in Washington. Fix the message, and you will fix the states.