And I only have ONE little thing that I question in your entire post. [surprise!!!] "Did John McCain take the low road? Hell, yes. He had to although he would, on occasion, rise above the muck."
No, he didn't. And that really was his failure. He compromised a solid set of principles to win. So he lost twice. And that is a shame.
Of course, no one put a gun to his head (as far as we know) and said, "Take the low road, Mac."
Look at it for what it was. Slender, young, oratorical, "sexy" candidate who is the media's darling with no explainable, accountable background relating to his rise with unlimited, also largely unaccountable funds vs an old, oddly broken and disfigured man who got that way in long service to his country who basically grossed out anyone under thirty who scrambled to meet the payroll.
There is no road high enough to take that would result in victory. He would have been seen as "kindly old gramps heading for the rocking chair"
Tear the other guy down was the only option with a chance of winning.
If it was a video game, Obama's skill level was set on "Easy" while McCain's was turned to "Brutal". John McCain came to win and against huge odds, he did remarkably well.
All that is now past, however. January 20, it all becomes an officially new game. Let's hope President (elect) Obama gained the necessary skills to successfully play at a new level. I know I hope he does.