When Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign was in the midst of the doldrums, they decided on a bold play to stave off defeat. McCain (R-Az) selected Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) as the vice presidential nominee.
The effect was immediate and electric among the Republican base. McCain’s poll numbers surged upward and he took a small lead. Conservatives who were skeptical about McCain saw hope in the Palin selection. Now the ticket was truly maverick.
Seeing the GOP candidates rise in the polls, the media sought to destroy Palin to sink McCain’s chances. Then McCain botched his response to the TARP bailout.
The die was cast. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) easily defeated McCain. And, bitter staffers from the McCain campaign blamed Palin for the loss.
But, conservatives never did. McCain did a good job with his “stand up for America” nomination acceptance speech. But, that passion was never seen again from McCain — in speeches or in his debates with Obama. Palin provided the only passion and outdrew McCain at campaign appearances.
For conservatives, Palin was the primary reason they voted Republican. Many had resigned themselves to not voting for McCain, voting third-party or even staying home. One can make a compelling case that Palin made the race closer than it would have been with Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee as the running mate.
Unlike most unsuccessful Veep candidates, Palin did not go quietly away. Despite the media attacks, she struck a resonant chord with many Americans. That explains her continuing popularity while McCain had to fight to win a primary challenge for his Senate seat.
Palin scored very well during the recent primary season. Most potential 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls refrained from endorsements to avoid either public embarrassment or burning political bridges. Not Palin. She injected herself into several high-profile races, more often with success than not. She even showed political acumen by the timing of some endorsements.
Sarah Palin may be the major political player in America after November 2010. She may run for president. She may not. But, Palin’s power will be demonstrated either way.
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