A footnote to what Obama mega-shills like Sullivan and Joe Klein insist was the dirtiest campaign evah, yet somehow not so dirty that it would resort to a line of attack deemed legitimate by Obama himself. Fred Davis, McCain’s ad guy, tipped Time to the existence of this spot a few weeks ago, calling it his favorite of the campaign but a casualty of the fact that Maverick wanted to steer well clear of anything that could be demagogued as racist.

Davis says that concern about race played a major role in the entire aesthetic of McCain’s ads. The photographs of Obama that the ads used, for instance, which often showed Obama elongated and smiling, were carefully selected, he recalls. “We chose them with only one thing in mind, and that is to not make them bad pictures because bad pictures would be seen as racist,” Davis says. “How many shots in their ads did they use a John McCain [photo] looking decent and smiling?” He says the campaign also agonized over the music in the ads, paying special care not to play drum-heavy tracks that could be seen as an African tribal reference. “We were held to a totally different standard,” he says.

Steve Schmidt insists McCain never saw the spot and that it was “never considered for air,” but surely someone outside the inner circle was considering it: This looks like it was ready to run, pending only a change of heart by the candidate himself. Would it have made a difference if it had? The only close wins Obama had on election night were Ohio by four points, Florida by two points, and North Carolina by one thin percent; flip all three into McCain’s column and … The One still conquers with more than 300 electoral votes.

Speaking of the good reverend, in case you missed it in Headlines, he returned to the pulpit at Trinity yesterday. Among the lessons of the gospel shared with the faithful: Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s a “dumb broad” and a “dizzy blonde,” and December 7, 1941 was apparently the day the U.S. nuked Hiroshima. Click the image to watch.