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Cheney would not comment on what he told Romney and Myers, but he was harsh in his assessment of McCain’s decision to pick Palin. “That one,” Cheney said, “I don’t think was well handled.” “The test to get on that small list has to be, ‘Is this person capable of being president of the United States?’” Cheney believes Sarah Palin failed that test. “I like Governor Palin. I’ve met her. I know her. She – attractive candidate. But based on her background, she’d only been governor for, what, two years. I don’t think she passed that test…of being ready to take over. And I think that was a mistake.”
Cheney’s right of course. It was a mistake… for Sarah Palin! Consider what would’ve happened in all likelihood had Palin rebuffed McCain’s entreaties, and McCain had picked Tim Pawlenty or even Mitt Romney as his running mate. Palin would’ve been the largest beneficiary from such a move. She still would’ve had a prominent speaking slot at the national convention, and she still would’ve given a speech that wowed the audience there.
She would’ve received much kinder coverage from the media (as an interesting and unique storyline instead of a potential one-heartbeat-away unknown), likely avoiding the leftist wrath which buried her in ethics complaints, and her rising profile within the party would’ve made her an in-demand voice from a far broader swathe of the GOP beyond the Tea Party. Without being tinged by the McCain disaster, without the betrayal of McCain’s crack communications team, and without the intense resentment of the Romney clan (which began working to undermine Palin before the 2008 election was even over), Palin would’ve been far more than an inspiration for the right, but a real threat for 2012.
With six years of gubernatorial experience under her belt, she’d be far more prepared and far more dangerous as a potential candidate for the nomination, likely shrinking the field (neither Perry nor Cain would’ve run, and possibly not Gingrich either) and coalescing conservative support as a legitimate candidate for the presidency.
The worst effects of John McCain’s run weren’t actually about him—rather, it’s the fact that he dramatically undermined Republican campaign infrastructure, gifted us with his grammatically-challenged moppet pundit, and likely ruined the career of a rising conservative star by rushing her too quickly to the limelight. A McCain presidency almost certainly would have given the left more than they got from Obama’s tenure—paired with a Democratic Congress, McCain would’ve closed Gitmo, likely cut a deal on climate policy, and split the Republican Party on issue after issue. Oblivious to all this, today McCain still wanders Capitol Hill wondering why people don’t want his advice. McCain is likely the last 70+ candidate to run for the presidency, and his tenure and heroism certainly deserve respect. But what he did in wrecking Palin’s career by rushing her too soon to the front is just one more negative about his tenure as the GOP’s nominee.
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