The desire for parity on television comes at the expense of investment in paid boots on the ground," said one top Republican strategist who has been privy to McCain's plans. "The folks who will oversee the volunteer operation have been told to get out into the field on their own nickel."
This has been the central strategic issue of the campaign. McCain has suffered from being far behind Obama in money throughout the race. During the primaries, when McCain was down to a skeleton staff, Obama was opening field offices and developing ground forces in both primary and caucus states.
During advertising the general, McCain has caught a double-whammy. Not only is he limited to his federal matching funds (which is more than he could have raised), he's getting no support to speak of from 527 organizations. Not only does this stretch his ad dollars still more thinly, but the campaign iteself has to own all the most loathsome tactics that have been adopted.
Translation? He never sold his candidacy to the base. The campaign did everything they could, even picked a "whack-job" for Vice President, and he still isn't getting the love. Worse, no matter how heinous the tactic, he is still being criticized for going too easy on Obama from his right.
From, the beginning this was going to be a national media campaign, with expectations of a lot of earned media from a press corps that adored him. Kowtowing to the base not only cost McCain that critical adoration, but has turned also him into a figure of scorn and mockery in much of the traditional media.
It may not have mattered, though. Even if he had spurned the base, put Lieberman on the ticket, won the floor fight that his staff said would ensue and run a positive campaign, he'd still be the same terrible, incoherent candidate advocating a failed foreign and domestic policy regime.
Saddest news of all for the Republicans is that he probably was also their best shot.