The perfect companion piece to Marc Ambinder’s reminder this morning that, for all the bluster about what Ayers reveals of Obama’s judgment and character, Maverick’s not pushing the issue as hard as he could. No major ad buys, no speeches devoted to the subject, not even a debate mention yet. Either he considers this line of attack dishonorable or he finds it absurd to be pushing it in the middle of a global financial meltdown, so he’s going to half-ass it by bringing it up occasionally, hoping the media takes the baton and runs with it, but otherwise not dirtying his hands too much. How that adds up to a winning strategy is beyond me, but then I haven’t really grasped McCain’s strategy since he effectively diminished The One this summer by comparing him to Paris and Britney.

Some McCain campaign officials are becoming concerned about the hostility that attacks against Sen. Obama are whipping up among Republican supporters. During an internal conference call Thursday, campaign officials discussed how the tenor of the crowds has turned on the media and on Sen. Obama…

But Sen. McCain vetoed proposals to attack the Illinois senator for his 20 years as a member of the church led by Rev. Wright, whose harsh comments about racism in America and other issues created problems for Sen. Obama during the Democratic primary contest. Sen. Obama publicly severed ties with Rev. Wright earlier this year.

Sen. McCain has said Rev. Wright is off limits.

That decision, and the worry that the campaign could open itself to accusations of racism, has kept Rev. Wright out of their strategy.

One McCain senior adviser said the difference between Mr. Ayers and Rev. Wright isn’t race, it’s religion. “It’s not appropriate to attack someone’s faith,” he said.

Some longtime Republicans are befuddled by the decision not to go after Rev. Wright.

“If you’re going to go down with Ayers, you might as well go with Wright too,” said Ed Rollins, a longtime Republican strategist and former Reagan White House aide who ran Mike Huckabee’s campaign during the primary.

Mr. Rollins said that, although accusations of racism would undoubtedly arise, Sen. Obama’s longtime connection with Rev. Wright made the relationship fair game.

Ayers is more odious than Wright to me for the simple reason that he has a body count, but if the name of the game is associations, it makes no sense to tie him to the guy he worked with but not the guy he worshipped with for 20 years. Fearless prediction: If the polls don’t change after next week’s debate and Obama’s lined up for a landslide, you’re going to see McCain back off the Ayers stuff with an eye to salvaging his reputation/legacy among the media he loves (or used to love) by being noble in defeat. As Christopher Buckley, endorsing Obama(!) today, puts it, “All this is genuinely saddening, and for the country is perhaps even tragic, for America ought, really, to be governed by men like John McCain—who have spent their entire lives in its service, even willing to give the last full measure of their devotion to it. If he goes out losing ugly, it will be beyond tragic, graffiti on a marble bust.”

If he gives up on Ayers, though, I’m not sure what he’ll spend the last few weeks talking about. An emergency economic proposal, maybe? We’ll see. Meanwhile, further in this vein, see Michael Crowley at TNR for an obvious but welcome acknowledgment that the left’s high dudgeon about rage at McCain’s rallies is highly nuanced indeed in light of their own boilerplate about Bush being a terrorist and a war criminal.

Update: Whoops, the Crowley link was busted. Fixed now.