Sarah Palin could surprise me tomorrow night. I just highly doubt it.
I don't mean to write the eulogy for the McCain/Palin ticket. The race is far from over, and few polls have seen Sen. Obama creep above 50%. Two debates -- plus tomorrow night's VP showdown -- remain, and the looming specter of race will undoubtedly haunt this campaign until the final vote is tallied. But the bottom line is this: The tide has turned against the Senior Senator, and part of the slide is due to the performance and handling of Gov. Palin.
I initially voiced strong approval for the Palin pick. I thought she highlighted McCain's best qualities, she's young, she's immensely popular in her home state, she appealed to the base while still reaching out to disaffected supporters of Sen. Clinton, and she's a legitimate outsider. But along the way, the wheels have come off. The "drive-by" gotcha media, combined with Team Maverick's kid-gloves treatment of Palin and the governor's own idiocy in prime-time interviews have painted Palin as an aw-shucks know-nothing who has no business on the national stage.
I believe Gov. Palin is equally qualified for the office she seeks as Sen. Obama (which is to say, not very). That said, it has been nauseating to watch Steve Schmidt (who, admittedly, I lauded in a prior post) and the rest of Team Maverick restrict press access to Palin in an almost obsessive way. Palin is a skilled politician, and McCain's advisers have put the clamps on her. Why shouldn't she be appearing on Matthews, O'Reilly and Larry King? If she makes mistakes, who cares? That's to be expected in her first go-round on the national stage.
Additionally, what is often forgotten is that Sen. Biden is a walking gaffe machine. Obama himself has made myriad misstatements throughout both the primary and general election. McCain's team should have seized on the energy surrounding the unconventional VP and blasted her out to the masses in every format possible -- not just at highly scripted campaign rallies.
By reducing the press' (and really, the voters') access to Palin to prime-time interviews on the big stage (Sean Hannity, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric), Palin's missteps are amplified. She looked extraordinarily stupid by failing to name a single media outlet that she sought out on a regular basis -- "all of them" doesn't cut it. She appeared even dumber stammering through an answer about Supreme Court decisions outside of Roe v. Wade that she disagreed with.
When I endorsed Palin's candidacy for VP, I assumed that she would be able to answer these questions without sounding like an uninformed dunce. Further, I assumed some base level of knowledge about American politics and conservatism in general. I'm not sure whether she has looked uninformed because she actually is uninformed, or because she has been instructed to recite bulletpoint after bulletpoint no matter what the question.
Either way, it's clear that tomorrow night likely is the governor's last chance to save her image.