He was still mumbling about Lieberman as of last weekend, until he did something remarkably uncharacteristic and actually listened to his base. Then he took another look at his stable of what Gingrich describes as Republican “boring white guys” and was left, like so many of us, underwhelmed.

And then he let Maverick be Maverick.

None of them had what McCain believed he needed to do–and would have done–with Lieberman.

McCain wanted to shake up the ticket.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s name in the mix as an unconventional choice for months, but she had not been considered a frontrunner. So over the next few days, with McCain continuing to believe he needed someone who had more of a maverick streak than his other choices, lawyers reviewed her vetting information. They kept their activities from even some in McCain’s most senior inner circle…

The campaign secretly flew Palin into Dayton last night. She and McCain met privately for a couple of hours. McCain concluded she would “shake up the system” and was “a maverick,” qualities he believed Lieberman would have brought to the ticket. But she also would appeal to conservatives–which Lieberman most certainly would not have done.

After their meeting, McCain concluded he was comfortable with his choice. He notified Pawlenty this morning that he was going a different direction.

This puts the lie, at least, to the claim that Pawlenty and Romney were nothing more than decoys all along. I’m a little leery of the fact that they don’t know each other given that McCain’s very much an “inner circle” type of politician — Liebs, Graham, and top aides like Mark Salter — but given the atomic buzz she’s bringing him, he shouldn’t find it too hard to warm up. Exit question: Why did McCain want to shake up the ticket so badly? Because he was convinced he couldn’t beat Obama without a game-changer or because he wanted to put his own Mavericky brand on the party? (Or both?)