The New York Times harshly criticized the McCain-Palin campaign in an editorial Wednesday:
It is a sorry fact of American political life that campaigns get ugly, often in their final weeks. But Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have been running one of the most appalling campaigns we can remember.
They have gone far beyond the usual fare of quotes taken out of context and distortions of an opponent's record -- into the dark territory of race-baiting and xenophobia. Senator Barack Obama has taken some cheap shots at Mr. McCain, but there is no comparison.
[Palin's] demagoguery has elicited some frightening, intolerable responses. A recent Washington Post report said at a rally in Florida this week a man yelled "kill him!" as Ms. Palin delivered that line and others shouted epithets at an African-American member of a TV crew.
Mr. McCain's aides haven't even tried to hide their cynical tactics, saying they were "going negative" in hopes of shifting attention away from the financial crisis -- and by implication Mr. McCain's stumbling response.
We certainly expected better from Mr. McCain, who once showed withering contempt for win-at-any-cost politics. He was driven out of the 2000 Republican primaries by this sort of smear, orchestrated by some of the same people who are now running his campaign.
Of McCain's relatively civil debate performance, the paper said:
Ninety minutes of forced cordiality did not erase the dismal ugliness of his campaign in recent weeks, nor did it leave us with much hope that he would not just return to the same dismal ugliness on Wednesday.