True? Or just a crude lie aimed at staking McCain to a position publicly so that if he comes out against the bailout tomorrow he’ll look indecisive?

Bear in mind that Paulson’s also claiming he has reason to believe Maverick’s on board.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain will support a proposed $700 billion bailout of the financial markets, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Tuesday evening.

Sen. McCain’s (Ariz.) support of the package had been uncertain as a growing number of Republicans criticized it harshly.

Reid specifically challenged McCain on Tuesday to take a position on the bailout package.

“I got some good news in the last hour or so … it appears that Sen. McCain is going to come out for this,” Reid announced.

The McCain campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

McCain conspicuously didn’t rule out the possibility of voting yes in his statement this afternoon. The politically safe thing, particularly for a guy who admits that economic matters aren’t his forte, is to simply vote with the Democrats, no? The One’s not going to oppose his own party leadership: He almost never does, and he certainly isn’t going to start now by risking the backlash that would come if he helped torpedo the bailout and the markets promptly melted down. All McCain has to do is vote yes with Obama, lament the fact that it’s necessary, point to his own foresight in warning about the crisis two years ago (which he’s already doing), and then use his vote as further evidence of his bipartisan maverickiness. The base will grumble but they’ve already sold their soul to him on immigration to win the election. And besides, he rewarded them by picking Palin. In fact, if he’s really worried about dissension in the ranks, he could have her express a little public skepticism about whether the bailout’s really necessary just to hedge his bets. What am I missing?

Update: Actually, Obama has a little more room to play here than McCain does. The Democrats hinted earlier this afternoon that they’re not voting for the bill unless Maverick specifically joins them, an obvious way of making sure that they and Obama aren’t left holding the bag if they pass it and McCain votes no and the price tag then becomes an election issue. If McCain does vote with them, though, then Obama can hedge his own bets by breaking with the leadership and voting no. If the bailout succeeds, he can claim he voted against it merely because he was worried about the cost to taxpayers, which shouldn’t lose him any votes. If it fails, he gets to say “I told you so.”

In fact, McCain could theoretically achieve the same thing by leaning on congressional Republicans to support the bill so that it passes while deciding to vote no himself. The question is, will Reid be satisfied with that or will he insist on McCain going down with this ship?