John McCain is playing an enormously high stakes game of poker with his campaign.

He’s essentially betting the ranch that a bailout deal will get done today, and that he can claim some credit — any credit — for making that happen.

Yesterday, it looked like a compromise had been reached, but House Republicans balked at the deal, in part because it didn’t do enough for main street.  Some are suggesting that McCain is partly to blame because he’s riled up the House Republicans with his populist rhetoric about tighter regulations, limits on CEO pay, and homeowner protections.

If a deal doesn’t get done today, and he decides not to attend the debate, his campaign will be effectively over. No matter how he tries to spin it, the American public isn’t going to buy it.  It will be a collosal blunder, and he’ll be toast. 

If a deal does get done today, however, then he can show up to the debate as a conquering hero, and crow about protecting homeowners interests while Obama did debate prep.

It’s a risky gambit with huge upside or downside.  And the Democrats in Congress know this; I doubt they’ll sign off on a deal prior to the debate and essentially hand McCain the issue.  So McCain will have to decide:  Do I attend the debate with no bailout deal, or skip it altogether? Neither is a good option, but skipping the debate would be a disaster.

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