Most of you know I’d rather post photos of my family and write about Alaska than talk about politics. But after reading and watching some recent commentary, I can’t help myself.
The chattering class is talking – endlessly – about Mitt Romney’s choice of a Vice Presidential running mate. Will he choose a Governor? A Senator? A Congressman? There are many good options for Governor Romney – and all of them have already been dissected in the media – with a list of pros and cons beside their names. One is too “northern,” another is too “boring,” another is too “white.” I’ve lived through the scrutiny the family will endure, and it can be a nightmare.
I don’t pretend to know the best pick for Governor Romney. But there’s one theme that keeps coming up, and it’s ridiculous: that Governor Romney should avoid Senator McCain’s mistake in his Vice Presidential running mate decision.
Chris Cillizza brought it up here:
If you buy that basic way of thinking about the race, it makes it more likely that Romney’s main criteria in picking a running mate will be to do no harm, to avoid the public relations debacle that Senator John McCain (Ariz.) courted when he named former Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential pick in 2008.
Later, he describes the GOP as a “party still trying to get out from under the Palin pick.”
Talking Points Memo in an article titled, “Why Mitt Romney Won’t Take GOP Down Another VP Rabbit Hole” quoted a strategist who said my mom is “a case study on what not to do. The McCain campaign really screwed up by going in and picking someone who was just gonna shake up the ticket when they should have picked someone who’s safe.”
In other words, the pundits say Senator McCain made a huge mistake. But where’s the evidence to back up this conventional wisdom? I’m not a pundit, but I remember the race. I was there. I remember the frenzied crowds after my mom joined the ticket. I remember the huge fundraising surge. I remember her convention speech. I even remember how McCain/Palin took a polling lead over Obama/Biden.
Then the economy melted down. You could feel people’s fear. You could see it in their eyes on the trail. McCain suspended his campaign to rush back to Washington to deal with the crisis. A lot of people criticized him, but he did what he thought was right. And guess what, the economy was melting down while Republicans were in charge.
Take a good look at this list of polls. Shortly after Senator McCain picked my mom, the polls turned favorable. But he lost the lead for good the week he suspended his campaign, and we never got it back. Not in a single poll.
But even then, my Mom helped. A lot. She raised millions of dollars that helped us fight hard until the last moment. And Senator McCain actually performed better among those for whom the “Palin Pick” was very important to their vote. Immediate post-election polling shows a large majority of Republicans thought my mom helped Senator McCain and more than 90% had a favorable or very favorable view of her.(By the way, pundits, do you guys do much research before slamming my mom? It didn’t take me long at all to find the facts that refute your so-called “conventional wisdom.”)
I don’t write this post to criticize Senator McCain – far from it. He and my mom had an uphill battle against Obama who promised to stop the oceans’ rise and heal the planet. I honestly don’t think any Republican candidate could’ve beaten Obama in 2008. It was the Democrats’ moment.
But 2012 is a Republican moment. Whomever Governor Romney picks will be better qualified to run the country than our current President. And this time around, we’re not running against the hard-to-pin-down “hope and change,” we’re running against a President who can’t stop rising gas prices, much less rising oceans.
Mom answered the call to serve her country, energized the base, and inspired millions. Plus, she did it with good humor and grace. I don’t know what else she could’ve reasonably be expected to do.
The economy was collapsing, and the Democrats had nominated “The One.” My mom worked wonders, and it was such a joy watching her connect with Americans from coast to coast. But she could not work miracles.
It’s been four years now since Senator McCain selected my mom, and he made the right choice. Who will Governor Romney select as his running mate? Well, we’ve still got several months before we find out.
Whoever it turns out to be, I don’t envy the next vice-presidential nominee.
After all… Sarah Palin is a tough act to follow.
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