There is no doubt that the GOP mishandled the VP candidacy of Sarah Palin, and that may as well cost them the election. Media outlets are buzzing, asking the question of whether she has gone rogue. Ben Smith of Politico.com cites a Palin aide as saying,
“Her strategy was to be trustworthy and a team player during the convention and thereafter, but she felt completely mismanaged and mishandled and ill advised,” the person said. “Recently, she’s gone from relying on McCain advisers who were assigned to her to relying on her own instincts.”
She has been off message way too many times — agreeing with Barack Obama that they could stage preemptive strikes into the tribal regions of Afghanistan, saying that they shouldn’t pull out of Michigan, and that the robo calls are inappropriate and that the campaign should go after the Wright connection more intensely.
Moreover, her appearance in Saturday Night Live only cemented her caricature and thus it has to be asked — does she even care about the campaign? I suspect that she doesn’t. That she sees this as just another job she has to get through. Signs point to this star going on to make her own political fortunes and quite frankly, I can’t blame her. Newsweek’s Jonathan Darman speculates what her post-election rhetoric may be:
It’s easy to imagine her amped-up post-election critique: they dressed me in their fancy clothes, they fed me to their elite media friends, they even made me bow and scrape to “Saturday Night Live,” but they still couldn’t change me. I’m still Sarah from Wasilla and I’m ready to take Real America back.
Her approval ratings have slipped. 51% now view her unfavorably, in contrast to the 59% who did in early September (now they’re at 41%). This isn’t all on Sarah. She was fed a tight script and did not allow herself to be properly vetted. Her leash was short, and everything she did, said — and even how she looked — was subverted by the campaign machinery. This is to be expected since for the McCain campaign, all that everyone needed to know was that she was a woman and a conservative. In a Rovian universe, that would suffice but campaigns are hardly textbook.
And with the impending defeat of John McCain, the Palin camp is on defense, looking out for their rising star’s political future. Smith continues to write,
Some see her as a charismatic, hawkish conservative leader with the potential, still unrealized, to cross over to attract moderate voters. Anger among Republicans who see Palin as a star and as a potential future leader has boiled over because, they say, they see other senior McCain aides preparing to blame her in the event he is defeated. … “These people are going to try and shred her after the campaign to divert blame from themselves.”
Yet what I find odd in all this is how the McCain camp dismisses all this. They argue that she wasn’t mishandled but that she was simply too green, too sloppy — too unready. Isn’t that the point?
The problem with mavericks is that you can’t tell that what to do. On this point I think Sarah Palin has got me sold. She has deviated from the campaign, the message, and her running mate. There is a fine line between a maverick and a rogue; the latter hurts you. No wonder she is now seen as that. Going into our last week, it has become clear that Sarah Palin did the campaign all harm and no good, but it’s only because the campaign did the same to her. What goes around comes around.