For John McCain, Sarah Palin has proven to be a bridge to nowhere. She helped him bridge the gap for the support of religious advocates and the conservative right, but it was ultimately a meaningless victory. She won him the battle but may have cost him the election.
It ain't over til it's over, but for the McCain presidential campaign, things are looking quite grim. Will he have a better chance if he removed Sarah Palin from his ticket immediately and replaced her with a better-qualified candidate? It's a stunning move. It's unprecedented. It's a Hail Mary pass. Comedians will have a field day. Yet, many disillusioned voters who have been turned off to his ticket by Palin's strident, divisive tone and cheeky personality might just possibly forgive him and welcome him back with open arms.
It's not a pipe dream. A recent Associated Press-Yahoo! News poll showed that voters' perception of McCain hasn't changed much all these months, despite their becoming disillusioned by the increasingly negative tone of the campaign. The numbers are diminishing, but he still rates higher than Obama on what should be game-winners: national security, working with both political parties, being decisive, experience, and competency. According to the poll, people still find him more qualified than Obama.
But Palin is the game-changer. The same poll showed Sarah Palin's approval ratings sinking like a stone. Even members of his own party are beginning to openly voice their dissent. Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell directly cited her as his reason for endorsing Obama. The Salt Lake Tribune, like many other newspapers that have endorsed Obama, cited McCain's "impetuous" selection of Palin as a factor for rejecting him.
Behind these endorsement is a sense that the decision to back Obama is being done reluctantly. The truth is that many independent and undecided voters want any reason whatsoever not to vote for Obama. However, they can't in good conscious vote for a woman who is clearly unqualified for the office and who displays no humility about her lack of qualification; a woman who instead incites others toward violence against her opponents. That's a display of bad sportsmanship that is obnoxious to the American spirit.
McCain can get away with the last-minute switch. Two weeks is plenty of time. Events happen rapidly on the world stage today. People have grown accustomed to instant gratification. In the old days, no one thought anything unusual about a 100-year-old war, for example. Today, wars get tiring after several months - even weeks - and people on both sides demand a quick resolution. The main criticism of the Iraq war isn't that we invaded the country, for example, but that we've stayed there too long!
In fact, in the current presidential race, two weeks is an eternity. It's been more the rule than the exception that the candidates' standings in the polls have often shifted dramatically - even overnight. One more dramatic shift will just be business as usual. And what's the worse that could happen? McCain loses the campaign and destroys his reputation? If he continues the current course, he's going to lose the campaign anyway and his reputation will take a hit. If he wins, it will be one of the biggest political comebacks in history. Americans love a winner and will forgive his momentary lapse in judgment.
Even analysts agree that two weeks to Election Day is a long, long time in this race. Long enough for McCain to bring in the second-string quarterback and win the game.
Dumping Palin, as Tina Fey would say, would be the "mavericky" thing to do. And it just might pay off, doncha know?