Actually the McCain campaign was run pretty much like most Republican campaigns, only more so. Little real discussion of substantive issues; plenty of heavy-breathing rumors that Obama was a Muslim, a terrorist, a foreigner, and (worst of all!) a black guy. This was simply taking the Republican's decades-old 'Southern strategy' and ramping it up to the infinite power.
And it worked, though not in the way expected. McCain-Palin rallies began to look and sound like a Nuremburg rally crossed with a lynch mob. Conservatives may have exulted at the sight of these rabid frenzies, but normal Americans were repulsed by the raw hatred, hysteria, and paranoia plainly visible and audible in the distorted faces and shouts of "Terrorist!", "Traitor!", "Kill him!". McCain's "honor code" did indeed cost him the election. When talking to some sweet, wispy-haired old lady at one of his rallies, the Senator visibly blanched at the vicious propaganda that she regurgitated into the microphone he was holding. It speaks well of Senator McCain that confronted face-to-face with this ugly and deliberate poisoning of an innocent mind, he promptly forgot the script and defended his fellow senator against his own campaign's sotto-vocce defamation. Alas! "He who hesitates is lost." With this, he showed he was unable to stomach the tactics that his advisers had lined out for him, and in the same instant showed the bigots he wasn't one of them after all. And so he lost.
I suspect it was the combination of two botched wars and the worst financial collapse since late 1929 that proved insuperable for Senator McCain, but he ultimately showed that he was simply "not good enough at being bad", as Machiavelli wrote about one prince who failed to hold on to power.
All the hatred and paranoia summoned up from the vasty deep by conservatives will certainly not vanish of its own accord; especially not when being continuously augmented by conservative media and echoed by Congressional Republicans, who presumably are supposed to know better. Which way the wind is blowing was recently shown by attacks by lone gunmen on the Holocaust Memorial Museum and on a doctor attending church in Wichita. These murders were not committed by Bill Ayers, Bobby Seale, or Patty Hearst. There are surely other deluded souls, perhaps laid-off from their jobs during the Bush 'Wirtshaftswunder' who are understandably discontented and whose feeling that it was those 'others'--black people, brown people, poor people, immigrants, liberals, Jews, "pointy-heads", i.e., all the usual suspects of conservative demonology; are deliberately being stoked. Some of the more unbalanced minds among them may decide to take action--and in a country where nearly any adult can buy a semi-automatic rifle, then obtain a kit to convert it to full auto, we may expect that more shoot-em-ups may happen at any time.
Since the people who do these kinds of things tend to be isolated loners, they are almost impossible for law enforcement to find and restrain, even given the unlimited ability to snoop into electronic communications without warrant allowed by the Bush administration (only one of the reasons why suspending the Bill of Rights is a bad idea). Of course, this also allows the conservative propagandists and Republican politicians who incite them to disingenuously claim that these people are lone nuts (true) whose actions they had nothing to do with (false). Although the recession seems to have bottomed out, employment is a lagging indicator and so economic distress will continue to increase--leading in turn to distressed and disoriented folk who are easy prey for propaganda from the fever-swamp right. (Which right now seems like all of it; William F. Buckley must be spinning in his grave.) This, and not 'socialism' is the true danger of the moment.
(BTW, conservatives should find another parrot-cry; under President Obama the Federal government's share of GDP will be about the same as it was under that notorious Communist, President Dwight Eisenhower.)