Thursday, October 30, 2008

Choice of Palin has Sealed McCain's Fate

To turn an old saying around, it's far better (for Obama) to have a foolish opponent than a wise friend. And McCain has totally obliged.

Forget GWB's abysmal ratings. Forget the economy. Forget the Iraq war. Till the end of the Democratic Convention McCain still had a more than even chance of occupying the White House. His biggest card was the split among the Democrats, and Hillary supporters just wanting an excuse to vote for him.

Basic politico-economic theory and conventional wisdom both required him to veer to the center. Any of the speculated VP choices would have been fine - Tom Ridge, Joe Lieberman, even Mitt Romney and just may be Tim Pawlenty, as they all had their respective strengths.

A stance that would dilute the pro-life message, raise the prospect of restoring taxes for the ultra-rich, call for more regulation and expanded healthcare would turn off the hardcore right, but not enough to withdraw or switch support, when they see Obama as the alternative. Yet McCain could this way pick up a lot of the disgruntled Hillariites, and the undecided and independent voters.

But then he went ahead and picked Sarah Palin. What was he thinking? That just because she has the right plumbing (as a Hillary supporter put it to me) she'd get the Hillary women to back the ticket?

In addition to her obvious lack of experience she's so far to the right as to be almost a caricature of the ideology that's distateful to Democrats and most independents. McCain seemed smugly happy about the surprise he had pulled off, and about her almost rapturous reception by the hardcore right. "Trust McCain to shake things up" said a lackey on TV as Sarah's introduction started just ahead of the Republican Convention. But you need to shake things up when your outlook is bleak and the current course seems to be failing, and not when you have so many strong cards in your suit.

There are of course many other deficiencies in his campaign. When the economy is the number one concern you don't see a single economist of repute among his advisers. Ditto on other issues. The negative ads are horribly conceived and destroy his clean guy image without getting an effective message across. But these blunders I think pale in comparison to Palin (pun intended.)

The end result is obvious now, with McCain trailing Obama by 8 points nationally just six days before election day. Hillary supporters and independents have been shocked back into Obama's camp, and talk of voting against Obama out of spite has all but evaporated. I had anticipated this as my comments of September 1st and September 15 (when McCain was still doing well in the polls) on my August 1st post show. To a large extent McCain's choice of Palin is indicative of the quality of his decision-making as President. The maverick has turned ultra conservative, which I see as an act of misplaced expediency and even cowardice. McCain is paying the price and has only himself to thank for it.

I'm guessing Obama is silently but ardently thanking him too.