Democrats offered a little projection over the weekend and claimed that John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate exposed his panic during their convention, a claim that only made sense if one hadn’t endured it on television. Unfortunately for them, the meme of panic doesn’t apply, nor did it make sense any, given McCain’s position in the polls. The Washington Post reports that McCain favored Palin for months, and that it reflects a deliberate focus on reform and change:
Their first encounter was last February at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington. Sarah Palin was one of several governors who met privately with Sen. John McCain, by then well on his way to capturing the Republican presidential nomination, and her directness and knowledge were impressive.
Later that day, at a largely social gathering organized by his campaign, McCain spent 15 minutes in private conversation with the first-term Alaska governor. “I remember him talking about her when he came back,” a McCain adviser said. “He said she was an impressive woman. He liked her.” …
Far from being a last-minute tactical move or a second choice when better known alternatives were eliminated, Palin was very much in McCain’s thinking from the beginning of the selection process, according to McCain’s advisers. The 44-year-old governor made every cut as the first list of candidates assembled last spring was slowly winnowed. The more McCain learned about her, the more attracted he was to her as someone who shared his maverick, anti-establishment instincts.
The media saw the dispatch of Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney as an audition for the role of running mate, but that turned out to be hogwash. As one McCain aide told Dan Balz and Robert Barnes, that speculation filled air time but was completely inaccurate. Pawlenty and Romney went to Denver because they’re good and experienced surrogates. In the end, they had Pawlenty leave Denver because of the wild speculation that he was auditioning for VP.
By the time the Democrats began gathering in Denver, McCain had focused on Palin. Last Sunday, he invited her to Arizona for another meeting, and she traveled to Sedona through Flagstaff on Wednesday. After an hour-long meeting and consulting with Cindy McCain privately, he offered Palin the spot, which she accepted. Palin did not fly from Alaska to Dayton on Thursday afternoon; she came straight from Arizona. The private plane on the Anchorage-to-Dayton flight delivered Palin’s family, which found out at the last minute of the decision.
What of Lieberman, Ridge, and Romney? The first two did get serious consideration as options, McCain’s aides say. Romney got vetted but never considered himself a serious candidate, and apparently neither did McCain. Their relationship has improved considerably since the primaries, but in the end, Romney didn’t fit the reform message. Neither did Ridge, and Lieberman may have sent the wrong kind of reform message to the Republican base.
Far from being some sort of panic attack, McCain’s selection of Palin was a deliberate effort to craft a specific message for the general election and for his Presidency, should he win. He wants to challenge his party to recall their reform roots from the Reagan Revolution and the Contract with America. He cannot expect to have that taken seriously or effectively without having a real reformer, and not just a talker, on the ticket with him. He needs the conservative base energized and enthusiastic to make that message effective, and Palin provides both a track record of real reform and energy for the GOP base.
As the Times said on Friday, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. The panic seen from the Left shouldn’t surprise anyone, either. After their so-called reformer picked a 35-year Washington insider as his running mate, the ticket of true reform is obvious to even them.