So I was on a panel today with Mark McKinnon and Matthew Dowd–who brought you the last two Bush presidential campaigns–as well as Donna Brazile and Hilary Rosen….and Matt Dowd’s candor was up on Huffington before I got back to the office:
“They didn’t let John McCain pick the person he wanted to pick as VP,” Dowd declared during the Time Warner Summit panel. “When Sarah Palin got picked instead of Joe Lieberman, which I fundamentally believed would have given John McCain the best opportunity in this race… as soon as he picked Palin, that whole ready versus not ready argument was not credible.”
Saying that Palin was a “net negative” on the ticket, he went on: “[McCain] knows, in his gut, that he put somebody unqualified on the ballot. He knows that in his gut, and when this race is over that is something he will have to live with… He put somebody unqualified on that ballot and he put the country at risk, he knows that.”
McKinnon pushed back a bit half-heartedly about this, but the bottom line on the Palin selection is increasingly clear: it was a historically bad decision by McCain, a gimmick that backfired–not just because Palin is so clearly unsuited for high office, but because it demonstrated McCain’s own severe deficiencies as an executive.
It has been striking to me this year that the public seems far more serious about this election–far less tolerant of diversions–than some of my colleagues in the media. In this particular case, with Palin’s support evaporating in the polls as people get to know her better, the public (with the exception of the Republican base) has proven that it is taking this election more seriously than the Republican candidate.