From Jonathan Martin in Politico:
The unmistakable momentum behind Barack Obama's campaign, combined with worry that John McCain is not doing enough to stop it, is ratcheting up fears and frustrations among conservatives. And nowhere is this emotion on plainer display than at Republican rallies, where voters this week have shouted out insults at the mention of Obama, pleaded with McCain to get more aggressive with the Democrat and generally demonstrated the sort of visceral anger and unease that reflects a party on the precipice of panic.
The calendar is closing and the polls, at least right now, are not. With McCain passing up the opportunity to level any tough personal shots in his first two debates and the very real prospect of an Obama presidency setting in, the sort of hard-core partisan activists who turn out for campaign events are venting in unusually personal terms.
"Terrorist!” one man screamed Monday at a New Mexico rally after McCain voiced the campaign’s new rhetorical staple aimed at raising doubts about the Illinois senator: “Who is the real Barack Obama?”
"He's a damn liar!” yelled a woman Wednesday in Pennsylvania. "Get him. He's bad for our country."
At both stops, there were cries of, “Nobama,” picking up on a phrase that has appeared on yard signs, t-shirts and bumper stickers. And Thursday, at a campaign town hall in Wisconsin, one Republican brought the crowd to their feet when he used his turn at the microphone to offer a soliloquy so impassioned it made the network news and earned extended play on Rush Limbaugh’s program.
“I’m mad, I’m really mad!” the voter bellowed. “And what’s going to surprise ya, is it’s not the economy – it’s the socialists taking over our country.”
After the crowd settled down he was back at it. “When you have an Obama, Pelosi and the rest of the hooligans up there gonna run this country, we gotta have our head examined!”
Such contempt for Democrats is, of course, nothing new from conservative activists. But in 2000 and 2004, the Republican rank-and-file was more apt to ridicule Gore as a stiff fabulist or Kerry as an effete weathervane of a politician. “Flip-flop, flip-flop,” went the cry at Republican rallies four years ago, often with footwear to match the chant.
Now, though, the emotion on display is unadulterated anger rather than mocking. Activists outside rallies openly talk about Obama as a terrorist, citing his name and purported ties to Islam in the fashion of the viral emails that have rocketed around the Internet for over a year now.
Some of this activity is finding its way into the events, too. On Thursday, as one man in the audience asked a question about Obama’s associations, the crowd erupted in name-calling. "Obama Osama!" one woman called out.
And twice this week, local officials have warmed up the crowd by railing against “Barack Hussein Obama.” Both times, McCain’s campaign has issued statements disavowing the use of the Democrat’s full name. A McCain aide said they tell individuals speaking before every event not to do so. “Sometimes people just do what they want,” explained the aide.
The raw emotions worry some in the party who believe the broader swath of swing voters are far more focused on their dwindling retirement accounts than on Obama’s background and associations and will be turned off by footage of the McCain events.
John Weaver, McCain’s former top strategist, said top Republicans have a responsibility to temper this behavior.
“People need to understand, for moral reasons and the protection of our civil society, the differences with Senator Obama are ideological, based on clear differences on policy and a lack of experience compared to Senator McCain,” Weaver said. “And from a purely practical political vantage point, please find me a swing voter, an undecided independent, or a torn female voter that finds an angry mob mentality attractive...”