WHEN THE GAMBLER ROLLS SNAKE EYES…. Just yesterday, Lindsey Graham told Fox News, “Thank God John [McCain] came back” to work on the bailout package. Around the same time, McCain’s chief campaign strategist was on NBC, bragging that it was John McCain who brought House Republicans to the negotiating table, making a deal likely.

And it was McCain himself, just this morning, who was taking credit for “building a winning bailout coalition — hours before the vote failed and stocks tanked.” McCain assumed victory was at hand, and he was rushing to position himself as the hero who saved the day.

As of this afternoon, John McCain looks pretty foolish.

After bragging today about his role in shaping the economic bailout package, Sen. John McCain made no statement to the press after the defeat of the bill, in part at the hands of House Republicans.

Instead, McCain boarded his Straight Talk Air charter plane, where he sat in front, separated from reporters by a brown curtain, without making a comment on the bill’s defeat.

The McCain campaign’s senior policy adviser, Doug Holtz-Eakin, issued a statement blaming Democrats and Barack Obama for the Republican failure, but it was so laughably pathetic, no one took it seriously. Holtz-Eakin, demonstrating a degree of hackery that should effectively ruin his reputation forever, insisted, “This bill failed because Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country.”

Um, Doug? Most Democrats backed the bill that McCain supported, while House Republicans — you know, the ones McCain brought to the table as part of his triumph — rejected it, on a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Who put politics ahead of country?

A lot of people lost quite a bit today, but in a purely political context, few look as ridiculous right now as John McCain. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews offered some on-air analysis this afternoon, and highlighted the fact that McCain positioned himself as the head of the Republican Party, but couldn’t get his party to follow him. “He’s like a cavalry commander who said ‘Charge!’ and the Republicans went into retreat,” Matthews said.

Now, it’s worth noting that there’s a possible flip-side to all of this. The deal looked pretty solid last week, and then McCain showed up and scuttled the whole thing. This morning, McCain was already dancing in the end zone, so confident in what would happen. But if you’re one of the many Americans who hated this bill, might not this help McCain? If he’s responsible for the debacle, and you hoped for a debacle, maybe McCain’s abject failure looks pretty good?

I don’t think so. McCain, his campaign, and his surrogates have invested too much over the last several days in trying to give McCain credit for the bill they just knew would pass. It’s simply too late for McCain to turn around now and say, “Guess what? I hated that bill all along!”

McCain “suspended” his campaign to get this bill to the floor — and then it failed because his friends didn’t like it. It’s a fiasco that’s going to be hard to live down.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.