Shyeah, they're dialing back the rhetoric, all right:
“Help me, Ohio, to help put John McCain in the White House,” she[Palin] said. “He understands. He understands you. We understand how important it is that this team be elected. For one thing, we know who the bad guys are, OK?”
That statement elicited scattered shouts of “Obama!” throughout the crowd.
Besides, McSame could play "good cop" from now until Election Day, and it wouldn't really matter. What he and his running mate have encouraged has now metastisized into the talk radio world, where it'll get played over and over. CNN, MSNBC and FAUX aren't keeping an eye on them (other than paying their salaries, of course), and, except for sources like Media Matters, they aren't accountable to anyone, much less political campaigns; right-wing talk radio has been the echo chamber where the initial whispers of "Obama is a Muslim" became the shouts we've seen at McCain rallies, after all.
I'm sure we can rely on elder statesmen like Oliver North, Glenn Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, Boortz and Hewitt to take the high road for the next three weeks. And if not - well, we can always blame it on the callers, or maybe even the liberals like they did last time.
EDIT: Southern Beale in comment reminds me of something that's so obvious I forgot it - the right-wing blogosphere we didn't have in 1995. Lies can now also bounce around sites like "Free" Republic, LGF, Malkin/Hot Air, Lucianne, TownHall, The Corner etc. and gain additional strength that way as well.
Again - it hardly matters now what the McCain campaign does. By not doing anything before this, they've de facto tied themselves to the crawly things you find when you turn over the rock of American culture, protestations of equivalency between the campaigns notwithstanding.
They're the party of Strom Thurmond, of Jesse Helms, of Tom DeLay, of casual use of racism in campaigns, of "Macaca" and the "Hands" ad and "the little brown ones". They're the ones who for almost eight years now have been calling the political opposition "terrorist sympathizers" and "traitors", and doing it not in Web ads but from the floor of the Congress and the campaign trail.
They OWN the fear and paranoia and rage that they've worked so hard to build up since 9/11 over people who "aren't like us", over Islam, and over whoever "the terrorists" might be this week (Iran? Iraq? Pakistan? Saudi? Venezuela? Generic "Muslims"?). And all the "Obama is an honorable man" weaseling NOW isn't going to change things.