Analysis: Palin rocked campaign, for good and bad –

We haven’t had a fisking in a while.  Oh, look at this! CNN playing fast and loose with headlines!  In an anonymous “analysis”.

Sarah Palin’s selection as John McCain’s running mate redefined how vice-presidential candidates influence a campaign. Unfortunately for McCain, the Alaska governor hurt his presidential bid more than she helped.

Yeah, we’ll cover that.

It wasn’t just reporters who were stunned. Even McCain staffers at the event itself were shocked. Many assumed McCain would tap a GOP heavyweight like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty. The most daring option, many thought, would be Joe Lieberman, a former Democrat.

That’s because those staffers were incompetent, as we are to see.

But Palin’s debut instantly energized the Republican base, which had long been cool to McCain, and the GOP ticket surged in the polls.

Who apparently knew more about her than the supposed experts in the McCain campaign.

McCain took a shine to Palin’s anti-establishment streak and her familiarity with energy issues. His advisers believed her “average hockey mom” persona would attract women. The party grass roots admired her devotion to family and her conservative positions on social issues.

That was very necessary as McCain had no devotion to conservative positions, which is pretty essential in a Republican campaign.  (A successful one, at least.)

But because the Alaska governor was largely unknown, her record and background were immediately under scrutiny. Journalists descended on her hometown of Wasilla to examine her record as mayor and governor, though Palin was still sheltered from questioners.

Sheltered… by the campaign.  I’ve seen nothing assert that she made that call.

The craving for knowledge spread outside the media and paid huge dividends at the Republican National Convention, when Palin took the biggest stage of her life and assuredly presented herself as both a small-town mother of five and a pit bull who could smile her way through a sharp political attack. The speech garnered mammoth television ratings and rave reviews.

McCain came out of the convention with a healthy bounce — leading Obama by a 10-point margin. Palin’s ratings were also riding high, with nearly 50 percent of Americans viewing her in a positive light. She got bigger crowds than McCain, an unusual phenomenon that underscored her newfound political clout.

And McCain’s weakness.

But a series of missteps began to harm her image and McCain’s standing.

And that line strongly implies (without having the balls to say outright) that they were Palin’s missteps.  Let’s look at that.

Palin was still kept away from the media, even friendly conservative talk radio shows, in a strategy that campaign aides later acknowledged was flawed. Advisers chose to grant interviews only to two networks. When Palin stumbled over foreign policy questions, she undercut the foundation of McCain’s experience argument. Her sometimes-rambling answers in the highly-scrutinized appearances formed the basis for Tina Fey’s “Saturday Night Live” caricature.

Even the article admits that she was kept away from the media, not that she hid from it.  Advisors chose which interviews to grant.  And I love how her answers were “stumbles” rather than, say, “rhetorical flourishes”.

Palin held her own on economic and energy issues in the first half of her debate with Joe Biden — the highest rated of the presidential and vice-presidential debates. But when questioning turned to national security, she seemed to resort to talking points.

As opposed to the Obama-Biden campaign, which relied entirely on talking points, except when offering rhetorical flourishes or pledging to Spread the Wealth.

Back on the stump, Palin began to attack Obama, accusing him of “palling around with terrorists,” being a socialist and not as patriotic as herself and McCain.

I thought that was “speaking Truth to Power”?

Her offensives were often scattershot, appearing at one rally and disappearing at the next. And while Republicans enjoyed the aggression, Democrats and independents were turned off.

In what world were Democrats not going to be turned off?

Over a month, poll numbers shifted and Palin became more of a polarizing figure. Liberals called her the most divisive politician since Richard Nixon or George Wallace, and some former Hillary Clinton supporters said McCain’s selection of Palin was a cynical gambit that wouldn’t help him sway female voters.

So… George W. Bush wasn’t as divisive as Nixon or Wallace?  I mean, since Reagan was being the most divisive since Nixon and Wallace.  These aren’t credible statements, so why parrot them?

Aides insisted Palin wanted to speak to reporters but had been reined in. That changed in mid-October when she ditched her staff and launched an impromptu press conference in which she criticized the use of robocalls, even as they were being used for her boss.

She made the mistake of being honest.  Oops.  Maybe the press should have gone for the throat of whoever prompted the statment like they did when Obama made the mistake of being honest.

McCain aides refused to go on the record about it, but they groused anonymously that Palin was “going rogue,” that she was a “diva” and “difficult” to work with.

And that is Palin’s fault… how?  Because she didn’t go shoot whoever was leaking it in the head with her moose rifle?

You know what I find to be difficult and “going rogue?”  Grousing anonymously to reporters in the middle of a campaign. You fucking asshats.

But the tide had long turned. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in October showed she had become a bigger drag on McCain than President Bush, with voters citing her qualifications as their primary concern.

This of course, totally ignores the fact that without Palin, McCain would be a bigger drag on McCain than Bush.

A CNN poll released last weekend showed Palin’s unfavorable ratings were twice as high as when McCain picked her, and 57 percent of Americans believed she didn’t have the personal qualities a president needed.

As opposed to the 54% that didn’t think that McCain had the qualities a president needed?

As for the future, the poll indicated that only four in 10 voters would support Palin if she chooses to run for president in 2012.

Which means that she is already polling at 40% for 2012. Of course, CNN has to spin this as a bad thing.


  1. Phelps says:

    “Nearly 50%” is… wait for it… four out of ten.

  2. R says:

    Polling at 40% when nearly 50% supported your ticket three days ago is a net loss.

  3. R says:

    I know a guy without legs who would beg to differ.

  4. Aaron says:

    I actually buy the premise that Palin was among the best picks available to McCain given what he felt he needed to accomplish, namely consolidating the republican base behind him. Were I Palin, I think I would say to anyone, “hey, I did my job”. She revved the base, raised lots of money and helped him close the chasmatic excitement gap.

    But anybody who is being honest will admit that while Palin had appeal and telegenic, crowd pleasing charisma in spades, she lacked gravitas in equal amounts and the McCain campaigns poor handling of her only compounded the problem. By the time she had some level of sea legs about her, they had already allowed a media narrative to become established that she would not begin to shake until the end days of the campaign, by then far too late.

    Further, what her bona fide political skill set is yet I think has yet to really be proven out. Certainly Alaskans deemed her right for the times there and clearly she was a breath of fresh air over the old boys network that has been running Alaska since statehood. She balanced a budget during prosperous times when oil was trading above $78+ a barrel. Now her skills will really be put to the test as she has to manage the state on oil revenue way below her budget projections.

    For all the talk of her energy chops, we never heard word one of that on the campaign trail beyond the sloganizing. We never got one policy speech on energy to my knowledge. Considering that the McCain camp was billing her as an energy expert, I find it hard to believe they never bothered to deploy her for heavyweight duty on that topic unless the fact was that she could not credibly speak on it.

    The McCain campaign clearly blew it in correctly deploying her charisma and base drawing powers against The One, but I think its also the case that she didn’t demonstrate that she was much deeper than the charisma either.

    Exit comment: Its been said, fairly, that Palin was no more inexperienced or unready than Obama for the rigors of a national campaign or the responsibility of national service in the White House. Its a good comeback, but here’s the thing; we had two years to watch Obama rise to power on a strategy and with a team he crafted and I have to tell you that I don’t believe Sarah Palin is capable of doing what Obama has done. Has the potential of being Obama on the right, but I don’t think she has it in her. The cool thing about that supposition? We get to test it. She’s got four years to build. By 2010, if she is going to be a player, we’ll know.

  5. Phelps says:

    Considering that the McCain camp was billing her as an energy expert, I find it hard to believe they never bothered to deploy her for heavyweight duty on that topic unless the fact was that she could not credibly speak on it.

    Actually, I think there is an easy answer for that. Once you got past sloganeering, her (actual expert) answers were 180 degrees apart from McCain. It was McCain’s campaign, and she deferred to him, to her own detriment. McCain is a “ZOMG GOLBIL WRMNG!” biofuel hybrid car guy. Palin knows that biofuel does more harm than good and that global warming is hysteria. Those positions can’t be reconciled, so she sat on her opinions.