Friday, January 9, 2009

Newsweek: Behind the scenes with the Palin Veep pick

An absolute must-read if you're interested in how McCain chose to pick Palin.

Some highlights from the new book A Long Time Coming by Evan Thomas and the Newsweek staff.

a) McCain "viscerally disliked" Romney, and desperately wanted to pick Joe Lieberman for Veep, but polling showed he'd lose as much as 20% of his base if he picked a pro-choice candidate.

b) Pawlenty was considered too safe a choice for McCain's taste.

c) McCain's vetting of Palin relied "heavily on internet searches".

d) Hillary Clinton aides watched Sarah Palin's convention speech, and wondered: "This woman's trouble."

e) Axelrod told the Obama campaign not to worry, arguing that Palin would eventually implode.

More from the 8 page extract:

That left Tim Pawlenty, the Governor of Minnesota, Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, and Palin, the dark-horse governor of Alaska. Romney, a former businessman, could compensate for McCain's self-professed lack of economic knowledge. But McCain viscerally disliked Romney. Pawlenty, the popular governor of a swing state the Republicans badly needed to win in November, was the safe choice. Salter especially liked Pawlenty's salt-of-the-earth qualities.

BUT McCain didn't want the safe choice. A top adviser would later recall that telling McCain that Pawlenty was "safe" was "like guaranteeing" that McCain would not pick him. Prodded by Schmidt and the CEO of McCain's campaign, Rick Davis, McCain began asking about Palin, a first-term governor who had shaken up the Alaska political establishment by taking on her own party elders, who was fearless and defiant, who was … a little bit like McCain. He had called her that Sunday morning while she was attending the Alaska State Fair. It was a quick phone call, only about five minutes, and Palin had trouble hearing McCain over the noisy crowd. But McCain was intrigued. He told Salter and Schmidt to fly her down to Arizona and take a close look.

Schmidt and Salter met her as soon as she arrived in Flagstaff on Wednesday. The three talked late into the night. Schmidt and Salter probed and pressed and looked for gaps between her views and McCain's. Palin shrugged off substantive differences. "What's the big darn deal?" she asked, smiling and, in her frontier-girl way, half defying, half flirting with her interrogators.

With her flat accent and folksy charm, Palin was refreshingly down to earth, Salter thought. Salter had been wary; he had favoured Pawlenty, who exuded a warm Midwestern solidity.

Schmidt was pro-Palin from the beginning. He saw her potential as a conservative populist, the kind of throw-'em-red-meat, bash-the-elites politician who thrilled the Republican base that Karl Rove had so carefully nurtured through the Bush years. By picking Palin, Schmidt argued, McCain could snatch the "change" mantle from Obama............................

Buy the book here, despite its dirty title.