I said on the blog that when McCain picked Palin as his veep choice that he was throwing in the towel and that the race was essentially over.
There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth among Obama supporters after the selection: the Palin announcement made the morning after Obama’s acceptance speech eliminated any post-convention bounce he might’ve had. Palin became the media’s new fascination and nobody much cared about old news like Obama and Biden. McCain appeared to be controlling the narrative and Palin energized the GOP’s religious base for the first time and in a big, scary way.
I knew it was over.
Here’s what the Palin pick told me:
McCain was forced to take her by his campaign. Unlike most presidential candidates who move toward the center during the campaign, this was a sharp right turn for the independent-friendly McCain. This meant losing independents and sucking up to the base to make sure they bothered to get out and vote. (To be fair, McCain’s top picks for veep, Lieberman and Ridge would’ve alienated the base and they might’ve sat this one out entirely – so they couldn’t completely be taken for granted).
A smart Democratic pal of mine thought that McCain’s pick of Palin reinforced his Maverick cred. I think the exact opposite. The moment McCain cowered to his advisers and sucked up to the base, he lost any shreds of “Maverick” credibility he might’ve had. And he tossed away the experience argument entirely.
At some point in the next six months, the following story will come out:
John McCain stood against the wall across from Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt in the campaign’s Arlington headquarters.
“Turn the damned thing off,” McCain snapped.
Davis scrambled for the remote and turned off the TV â€” the big screen froze briefly on the smiling face of Barack Obama before going dark. Obama had just made an appearance following Joe Biden’s fiery acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention.
“We can’t pick Ridge. It’s suicide,” said Schmidt. “He’s pro choice. You want to see the numbers again?”
McCain bristled. “God damn it! Then it has to be Joe.”
“Lieberman will help with Florida,” said Davis.
“And kill us everywhere else,” Schmidt retorted.
McCain moved to the table and leaned forward with both hands. “Then who?”
“Sarah Palin,” said Davis lightly.
“Not this again,” grumbled McCain.
Schmidt shot a quick glance at Davis and slid the folder across the table to their boss, “She’s got it all. She’s got the executive experience, and might be the most pro-gun and anti-abortion Vice Presidential candidate in history. The Evangelicals love her.”
Davis added, “She’s worth ten points nationally in the first week we announce and Obama will get no oxygen for weeks. If the Dems attack her, we’ll reopen the “sexism” wounds that Hillary left.”
“But,” said McCain sliding into the chair at the side of the table, “there’s no way in hell she’s qualified.”
Schmidt shot back, “And Obama is?”
“Compared to her, yes.” McCain offered.
Davis pointed at a picture of Palin in winter gear holding a rifle standing over the body of a dead moose, “You pick Lieberman or Ridge or Pawlenty or Romney and you lose. Pick her and you might just win”
McCain looked ill. He stood and tossed the folder marked “Palin, S. Gov.” to the table. The war hero walked to the door.
Schmidt added, “It’s your only chance to win and it’ll look great in history books if you lose.”
McCain didn’t look at either man as he exited the room, “call her.”
It’ll come out.