I heard months ago this NYT bomb was about to drop. Interestingly, right after Super Tuesday a Romney senior staffer told me that they pegged their man’s chances at 30% of still winning the nomination. Much of that, they reasoned, depended on whether this story would see the front page in time to have an impact on the GOP race.

No doubt Camp Romney is wondering tonight where this story was a couple of weeks ago. Nothing here is particularly new to political junkies, but the fact that it’s on the front page of the NYT will certainly open eyes.

McCain’s statement tonight:

“It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

“Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career.”

So why did the NYT keep heir powder dry? Better yet, if they waited this long for an A1 story, why not wait until closer to the general when they might have had a greater impact?