11/10/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why is McCain Holding Back on Wright?

One statement at a recent McCain rally in Wisconsin caught my attention: "I am begging you, sir. I am begging you." That was the plea of McCain supporter James T. Harris, an African-American radio host in Milwaukee. He was asking McCain to go after Obama's Reverend Wright connection.

But McCain just skipped that reference and went on to talk about the economy. For some reason, he hasn't been going there, and people are noticing.


It isn't because he's afraid to throw mud and any other earthy substance, or for that matter, use Sarah or even Cindy to go after Obama's connections with Ayers, Rezko, Daley and anyone else they can tar him with.

Republican strategists and pundits such as Ed Rollins and Pat Buchanan are wondering why McCain is avoiding Wright, as the name resonates more than Ayers. Meanwhile, McCain's stance is confusing his supporters, otherwise roused to yell alarming comments: "Off with his head!" "Traitor!" "Kill him!" and "Barack Hussein Obama." Placards are waved with "Obama-Osama," and supporters are wearing tee shirts with Obama in a devil's mask.

That hateful stuff doesn't seem to bother McCain. So why doesn't he allude to Wright? What's holding him back?

McCain is implying he doesn't want to go racist. And a McCain senior adviser has said. "It's not appropriate to attack someone's faith." That makes it sound like the candidate is taking the high road.

Or maybe McCain is afraid of backlash, or crowds that go over the top.

More likely, he doesn't want to go there because of his association with his own two Reverends. One is the far-right John Hagee. At first, McCain said he was "very proud" to have his endorsement. But after Hagee referred to the Catholic church as the "Great Whore," McCain denounced the comments.

And there is Rod Parsley a right-wing televangelist who at one time McCain called "his spiritual guide"; McCain finally shrugged off Parsley's endorsement when the extremist's wacko positions about Islam surfaced.

If you ask me, those two men are the real reason Wright is off-limits. So far. But McCain is a gambler, and may take a chance on the media giving him a pass, as they have so many times before. And if Wright comes up, the vitriol and ugliness -- and results -- may be frightening.