Last night, I helped cover the election with BBC. During the evening, I got into a sharp argument with the editor of Human Events magazine about Sarah Palin. I noted that her selection may have been one of the biggest political blunders of a campaign in my lifetime. Now, exit polls indicate that, if anything, her negative impact on the ticket was underestimated. McCain aides appear to be now lining up to dump on Palin – disclosing more damaging information about everything from her shopping sprees to shocking lack of basic world knowledge.
Over sixty percent of voters said that she was manifestly unqualified — that obviously includes many Republicans. Other polls have shown Palin was the most cited reason for voting against McCain by voters. While she clearly did bring out the hardcore faithful, she also clearly scared off the independents and moderates are that were essential for a win. Click here. Not only did McCain pick someone viewed as an extremist, but he succeeded in highlighting the age factor since many people were not willing to risk that Palin could be president given McCain’s advanced years.
Vice presidents seldom do much to help a candidate, but Palin is an example of how they can hurt a candidate. McCain spent much of the campaign after the convention answering questions about his vice president rather than the issues. With all of the negative issues already pulling down the campaign, it took real effort to find the one candidate who would top those issues as a negative for voters. In key swing states, the margin given away with Palin might have made the difference for McCain.
My disagreement last night on BBC shows that only the most extreme element of the GOP was “energized” by Palin — and McCain’s pandering to that element was a significant reason for his defeat. The Republicans now have a choice of returning to Rockefeller Republican values or stay with the religious right and social conservatives. The latter have a clear standard bearer in Palin. The question is who will lead the traditional republicans.
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