Sunday, June 24, 2012

Palin Was A Dumb Gamble, Not A Smart Gamble

Alex Koppelman argues that nominating Sarah Palin kind of made sense, because McCain needed to roll the dice with the economy going down and all:
By the summer of 2008, McCain could see he’d been dealt a bad hand. He couldn’t escape George W. Bush’s unpopularity, and he knew that the rapidly worsening economy would be blamed on Bush, and, by extension, on his fellow Republicans. He was almost certain to lose. At that point, he had a couple options: one was to play it safe, try to keep things close, prevent a landslide. By doing that, he could avoid being the next Walter Mondale—but he couldn’t win. Or he could take a risk, pick someone like Palin who would shake up the campaign. Sure, she might hurt him, but he was going to lose anyway. In exchange, he got a chance at victory—a small chance, maybe, but that’s better than no chance at all.
High-risk, high-reward strategies do make sense when you're behind. I don't think the economic data backs up Koppelman's story, though.  Here's the S&P 500 and NASDAQ throughout 2008.  Things weren't going great, but they weren't going too badly either when McCain gave Palin the nomination on August 27.  It's in September that the market started to slide, and October when it really crashed. Unless McCain was a lot smarter than most investors, he didn't see the bad news coming.

The polling doesn't really help McCain look smart either.  Polls generally had Obama leading by 1-4 points in the days leading up to the Palin nomination.  One or two had McCain ahead, and the GOP convention was just around the corner.  McCain was roughly in the situation Romney is now -- a little behind, but not much.  So it's hard to see Palin as anything but an unnecessary risk.  

1 comment:

low-tech cyclist said...

I think it's worth looking at the payoff (or lack of one) of the Palin nomination on two or more levels. One is that of McCain's campaign, and the other(s) is/are how it's paid off for the GOP and its more radically conservative wing in particular.

For McCain, it simply sucked. It revealed his total nonseriousness as a leader. We'd already had eight years of a President who made major decisions like whether to go to war on the basis of gut feelings. Sure, there are gambles in life, but smart people try to find out just what the gamble really is, and what the odds are, before laying their money down. McCain didn't do his homework on Palin, and it screwed him.

But the wingnut enthusiasm for Palin was what paved the way for the Tea Party stuff. It started so easily because they'd already been mobilized in the fall of 2008. If we still don't seem to have hit Peak Wingnut, the Palin nomination was, I think, the spark that started this fire.