John McCain’ campaign, in running Television ads which defy traditional political standards, is gambling that the previous rules governing what is permissible in presidential contests — as defined by the mainstream media — can safely be discarded this year.

The normally cautious and even-handed Associated Press (AP) on Thursday declared, “Even in a political culture accustomed to truth-stretching, McCain’s skirting of facts has stood out this week.” The controversies have surrounded John McCain’s television commercials and stump speeches asserting that Barack Obama “supports” comprehensive sex education in kindergarten, that Barack Obama called Sarah Palin a “pig in lipstick,” and that Sarah Palin stood firmly against the “bridge to nowhere” — despite videotape evidence that the Alaskan governor provided support for the earmark before she opposed it.

So far, based on polling over the past two weeks, John McCain’s roll of the dice has paid off. Not only has John McCain made substantial gains, pulling modestly ahead in most national polls, but his assaults on Barack Obama appear to have damaged the Democratic Party as well, raising Republican hopes of minimizing House and Senate losses.

There are 50 days left until November 4, and the outcome remains unpredictable. The public could become hostile to Jonh McCain’s negativity; the Barack Obama campaign could find a way to reverse current trends; or McCain’s candidacy could simply fail to thrive, as happens to all losing presidential nominees. What actually happens is anyone’s guess, but for the meantime the negative campaigning is working.

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