When John McCain chose Sarah Palin he pulled off perhaps the most brilliant political masterstroke in living memory.
Whether he realized all the nuances of his act or not, will likely be the subject of a few books over next 5 or 10 years.
I believe that he also had the good fortune to have very fertile ground on which to plant. Just prior to the Sarah Palin pick, Republican and conservative voters all over the nation had finally gotten to the point of maximum revulsion toward the Democratic ticket.
There are some years where one team would be as well served if they just stayed home. Obviously the landslide years of ’64, ’72, and ’84 come to mind, but so to do years like 1996.
Realistically Bob Dole was NEVER going to beat Bill Clinton in 1996. Partly that was because Bill Clinton was a very able politician and Bob Dole was old and boring. The fact that he was also honorable and decent was not a big seller in the crazy 90’s.
Partly I believe it was because the GOP had just captured the Congress two years before and voters knew that Clinton would have to continue to work with Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott to get anything done.
Three months ago 2008 was looking a lot like 1996. Young, telegenic Democrat vs old, grumpy Republican. (Where’s the outrage?!) Republicans were dispirited and glum.
Then along came Sarah at what they used to call “the psychological moment”.
Just when many people were realizing that Barack Obama is an empty vessel into which millions had been pouring their daydreams and desires, and that he would be “working” with Pelosi & Reid Inc., four things happened in rapid fire order.
First, Barack Obama choose old tired boring Joe Biden as his VP.
Second, in what should have been his finest hour, Barack Obama delivered a boilerplate liberal blah blah blah speech in front of a tacky Hollywood set.
Third, Hurricane Gustav gave George W. Bush a mulligan and this time GWB and a team of Republican Governors aced the exam. (Please no fake outrage, I have a dear sister-in-law who lost her house in Katrina and I and my wife were in Biloxi five days after the storm with a truck load of supplies.)
Fourth, Sarah Palin appeared before a weary nation’s eyes and like a bouquet of roses brought first smiles and then tears of joy.
The Republican base was energized as it hasn’t been since Ronald Reagan left office in 1989.
Political moderates who had begun to have doubts about Barack Obama suddenly had another option.
Women who felt stepped on, for among other things Obama’s shabby treatment of Senator Clinton, had a new spring in their step.
The two real people, with real accomplishments, were a striking contrast to the two posers, the two “change” pretenders, and it was a new day in America.