If Barack Obama loses this election to John McCain – something which, for the first time, I regard as a real possibility – history will point to August 29 as the pivotal moment. That was when Mr McCain announced that Sarah Palin would be his running-mate, and when livid Democrats and their friends in the media voiced their feelings about her and much of the electorate, and gravely harmed their candidate’s prospects.
For Mr McCain to win the election against the odds that faced him pre-Palin – with the economy in the tank and the incumbent Republican president setting records for unpopularity – would be sensational enough. For this to happen because of his vice-presidential pick, a decision that is usually of next to no consequence, beggars belief. The Democrats had to bring all their resources to getting themselves into this fix. They proved equal to the task.
As I argued last week, Mr Obama’s own initial reaction to the Palin nomination was exactly right. All the party had to do was follow his lead. Mr Obama, in effect, would give her enough rope; her inadequacies would reveal themselves in due course; it cost nothing, in the meantime, to be courteous, and to keep pressing on the issues, where the Democrats still enjoy an advantage with most voters. Ms Palin’s first television interview last week, an adequate but far from stellar performance, affirmed the wisdom of that course.
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