Conservative writer Daniel Larison debunks several of the “pre-arguments/excuses” being made by the McCain camp in case they lose. As always, the bold italics are mine and not theirs:
The candidate and the staff are hard to extricate from one another: McCain chose the staffers and agreed to heed their advice, and they crafted a message-free campaign that they thought suited a candidate defined by his biography. To accuse Palin, as some McCain insiders have done anonymously, of having gone “off message” is meaningless–there has been no message from which she could have departed. For that matter, to credit Schmidt with having enforced some kind of discipline on a rudderless, message-free campaign is not much of a compliment. All that this means is that he effectively organized an aimless campaign as it zigged and zagged efficiently from one incoherent line of attack to the next.
McCain bears the bulk of the responsibility for a poor campaign, as the nominee always does, and the poor campaign was practically foreordained once McCain decided that characteristically moralistic harping on two or three of his favorite issues, which had been his primary election approach, would be the path to victory in November. The campaign was message-free because of McCain’s weakness on policy, particularly domestic policy, which ensured that his response to the financial crisis could not have been very effective. It did not have to be as absurd as it was, but it was never going to inspire much confidence.
External conditions brought the McCain campaign crumbling to the ground, but that was a result of its unsound foundations and poor construction.