Sarah Palin has nursed John McCain’s weak senate re-election campaign back to health. Still, her support for McCain is inexplicable and in defiance of logic or reason.
A new poll suggests that Sarah Palin’s recent campaign swing in Arizona has paid off for Senator John McCain. And at least some conservatives, like NewsReal Blog’s Jenn Q. Public, laud Palin for her “loyalty” to McCain.
Not me. As far as I’m concerned, Palin’s decision makes no personal or political sense.
She owes McCain, after all, absolutely nothing. Palin paid off whatever debt she might have owed McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign. This is something that even Steve Schmidt, McCain’s 2008 campaign manager, now acknowledges. Palin, Schmidt says, was a net plus for the McCain campaign.
Moreover, McCain’s political team seriously mishandled Palin by hiding her from friendly conservative journalists and then serving her up, unprepared and with no real warm-up runs, to a hostile liberal media. This resulted, unfortunately, in Palin’s disastrous interviews with ABC News’ Charlie Gibson and CBS News’ Katie Couric.
Yet some of this same McCain crowd are now spearheading the senator’s 2010 re-election campaign. And Palin, inexplicably, is helping them — after they maligned her! And they have continued to disparage Palin, by trashing her (anonymously of course) in the media.
Nonetheless, some conservatives, like FrumForum’s Paul Craft, are trying to rationalize Palin’s decision to campaign for McCain. Indeed, Craft asserts (without any evidence or explanation) that Palin is “personally indebted to McCain.”
No, she’s not — not in the least. McCain in the fall of 2008 was politically desperate and in trouble. He needed to roll the dice or he himself was sure to get rolled politically and to lose decisively.
So he made a gutsy decision and picked the dynamic and charismatic Palin as his running mate. You can argue about whether that decision was good or bad, wise or foolish, but you cannot dispute that McCain’s weak and anemic presidential campaign desperately needed a shot of Vitamin B-12.
And, as Schmidt now admits (even though he dislikes Palin as a politician and thinks she’d be a disaster if nominated as the GOP standard bearer in 2012), Palin delivered. She energized the campaign and inspired real and heartfelt hope that the GOP might somehow, against the greatest of odds, pull out a victory in 2008.
But for a variety of reasons — not the least of which was the McCain campaign’s own serious mishandling of Palin — it never happened. In any case, Palin delivered for McCain and thus now owes him absolutely nothing.
Yet, Craft argues, disingenuously, that conservatives who criticize Palin for supporting McCain are far-right zealots motivated by “ideological purity.” This is insulting and simply not true.
Conservatives who oppose McCain do so because they believe that on too many big and important issues — free speech (aka “campaign finance reform”), military modernization, and illegal immigration — McCain simply isn’t conservative.
These activists may be right or wrong about McCain — certainly, Sarah Palin seems to think that they’re wrong — but they are hardly “far right.”
John R. Guardiano is a writer and analyst in Arlington, Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter: @Guardian0