McCain: "We have raised $4 million on the Internet. I wish I had taken her a month ago."

Ed’s away doing convention prep work and I’m on my way out the door, so here’s a clip and some choice links to tide you over for a few hours. Maverick’s answer to Chris Wallace about her foreign policy judgment is the best he can do for the moment but patently unconvincing until we hear from Palin herself. I wonder who she’ll give her first policy interview to; smart money says “Hannity & Colmes,” where she’ll get softballs from Sean and questions about how it feels to be an unfit mother from Alan.

Note what McCain says at the beginning about the spirit of reform, as Palin’s “maverick” appeal is the common thread running through the NYT’s and WaPo’s pieces on the selection process this morning. The Times insists he wanted Lieberman — with Grahamnesty pushing so hard for him that he alienated other McCain advisors — until he finally yielded to the base (a Maverick first!) and settled on a “kindred spirit” whereas the Post cites aides who claim it wasn’t so much the social con backlash that decided things as McCain wanting to be as true as he could to his own political outlook. (In which case, he did a good job: “There’s a real question whether she’s a Republican or a Democrat,” says one Alaska Republican to the LA Times.) Here’s the money bit from the NYT:

Last Sunday, 24 hours after Mr. Obama announced his running mate, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Mr. McCain met with his senior campaign team at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Phoenix. By then, campaign advisers said, the group had long decided that Mr. McCain’s “experience versus change” argument against Mr. Obama had run its course, to the extent that it had worked at all…

In any case, one campaign adviser said, Mr. McCain hated running as the wizened old hand of experience. Despite his embrace this year of President Bush and many of the administration’s policies, Mr. McCain, a campaign adviser said, still saw himself as the maverick who delighted in occasionally throwing political grenades at his own Party.

And here’s the money bit from WaPo, emphasizing the personal drama of the pick:

On Wednesday Palin flew to Flagstaff. That night she conferred with Schmidt and Salter. The next morning around 7, the three of them, along with a Palin aide, climbed into an SUV with tinted windows to begin the 45-minute drive to McCain’s retreat in Sedona.

When they arrived, McCain offered Palin some coffee before taking her to a bend in a creek on the property where there are places to sit and a hawk’s nest looming above. It is one of McCain’s favorite places, and the two talked alone there until they were joined by McCain’s wife, Cindy, who is described as having played a key role throughout the selection process.

After about an hour, Palin joined her aide on the deck of McCain’s cabin, while the candidate and his wife went for a walk along the creek. When they returned, McCain held one last session with aides Schmidt and Salter. Then he offered Palin the job. The deal was sealed “with a handshake, a pat on the back,” one adviser said.

Interesting how they’re emphasizing Cindy McCain’s role; she’s also listed as one of the six advisors in McCain’s inner circle who helped decide on the pick. Exit question reading assignment: The Palin profile from Newsweek, which, I kid you not, is almost glowing. Whether that’s a function of her having charmed their reporters or the magazine feeling they owed Maverick one after having submerged themselves in the tank for Obama, I don’t know, but their seat on Straight Talk Airways should be secure after this. It’s also the first story I’ve seen address whether Team Maverick looked into the Troopergate scandal that Alaska investigators are set to report on … on October 31st. Cross those fingers:

Palin’s approval ratings among Alaskans, once as high as 90 percent, have dropped to a still robust 76 percent in a recent poll.

The McCain campaign did not appear too concerned that the investigation would turn into a nasty October surprise. Asked about Palin’s troubles back home, a senior McCain adviser, who declined to be named discussing private strategy, said the campaign had looked very closely at the allegations involving Palin’s ex-brother-in-law and was “comfortable” that there are no shoes to drop that could complicate the campaign. The adviser declined to say if McCain had asked Palin about it directly.