White House ’08: McCain has to stick with Palin

Column by Chris Graham

I wrote a piece yesterday about the growing sentiment among conservatives that it might be best for John McCain’s sinking campaign if Sarah Palin would volunteer to step aside as the GOP vice-presidential nominee in favor of another more seasoned candidate.

Here’s what I think – that would be the worst move in a presidential campaign since George McGovern dumped Tommy Eagleton back in ’72, and would likely produce a similar result in November as the landslide loss that McGovern suffered to Richard Nixon.

For better or for worse, Palin is the nominee, and even as some Republicans are beginning to recoil in horror at the trainwreck that Palin can be in the face of even tepid questions from interviewers, there is still a strong segment of Republicans particularly in the social-conservative set who not only love her to pieces but also still fundamentally dislike McCain and would not in a million years pull the lever for him for anything if he were to be seen as having orchestrated the exit of Palin from the ticket.

This, of course, is what we could call the Palin Problem – because just as she energized the social-conservative base of the GOP in a way that maybe no other VP choice could, she has also energized Democratic voters just as much, and she seems to be turning off enough of the the nonaligneds to throw a wrench into the electoral math that has changed dramatically from ’04 when all Republicans had to do was get their voters out to have a solid shot at winning.

So the McCain brain trust is kind of damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t with respect to Palin. Drop her, and you lose the social conservatives, keep her, and you’re dooming your reach-out efforts and your chances of winning in a race that seems to have fallen into the Obama’s-to-lose category in the last two weeks.

Questions were asked within minutes of the confirmation that Barack Obama had selected Joe Biden whether he would end up regretting not having made Hillary Clinton his choice. I’ve been saying since I first heard Sarah Palin’s name six days after that McCain might look back at the end of this and wish he had taken Mike Huckabee. I still stand by that.

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