As a number of commentators have pointed out (Peggy Noonan, Kathleen Parker, Rachael Maddow, etc), it is increasingly uncomfortable to put politics into a right left paradigm. Is the bailout a right or left policy? Is it left or right to spend money on global AIDS treatments, or to ramp up the enforcement of intellectual property rights? Are civil rights a right or left thing? Are abortion rights a "left wing" thing? Are huge budget deficits (a consequence of each of the past three Republican administrations) a right wing policy? Racism is deeply offensive and quite real, and often associated with right-wing campaigns. But is racism a tag that can be applied to supporters of Justice Thomas or Bobby Jindal without some type of explanation?
This campaign is both about moving away from a right/left paradigm in politics, and a huge mobilization of the traditional right and left bases. It is probably quite difficult for the two leading political parties and their campaign professionals to avoid a predictable left right polarization during a election where power is at stake. What is the GOP today, if not an unlikely collection of groups that are "right wing?" What are the Democrats these days if not a coalition of groups that are "not right-wing?"
Why has McCain sunk in the polls? Certainly partly because he acted like a chicken with its head cut off during the early bailout discussions, and certainly because he embraced the supremely unqualified Sarah Palin, whom many are not anxious to arm with nuclear weapons. But also, I think, that McCain is currently so wrapped up in being right wing, and pushing the right/left divisions, with his attacks on Ayers and Acorn, that independent voters, those who don't buy into the right/left paradigm, see his candidacy as a step backwards in time.