John McCain appears to be headed for a defeat, with only a residual hope of a re-run of the great Dewey versus Truman upset in 1948 to sustain him.
But in his reckless choice of running mate he has ensured that attempts to rebuild the Republican party in the event of defeat will be hampered by the soaring ambitions and dead weight of Sarah Palin.
Sarah Palin has done more for Barack Obama than John McCain
Palin is making it clear that she is not going to go away if McCain loses and it is clear she will try to run in 2012 for the nomination.
That is a calamity for her party.
She has proved herself in recent months not fit to be Vice President, never mind President, confusing stubbornness with principles .
Palin appears to have a very limited capacity for growth or even basic understanding on economic or foreign policy.
But she has become talismanic for the portion of the Republican right which is gearing itself up to suggest that a vast liberal conspiracy, involving the media and what she might refer to stupidly as the anti-American parts of America, has somehow imposed a government of occupation headed by Barack Obama.
She is likely to be the figurehead of that faction, whether a great many people find her ridiculous or not. That will make it even more difficult for the Republicans to set about rebuilding an electoral coalition, involving centrist and independent voters, as she will be off-putting to the people the party needs to persuade.
Yes, Bush and Karl Rove motivated the base brilliantly but they piled other kinds of voters on top of it too.
The Republicans seem on the verge, if McCain loses, of making the classic mistake made by losing parties down the ages: they head for the comfort zone of the so-called core vote and old tunes that only a large minority enjoy. It is never enough.
Bill Clinton understood that the Democrats had made just that mistake since the tail-end of the 1960s and campaigned and governed accordingly.
Palin-style politics doesn't work but if he loses, it is John McCain's last gift to his party.
Even worse is thought that if McCain pulls off a win he will have Palin at his shoulder.
In that event, the world had simply best hope we do not wake one awful morning to discover that McCain did not.
His slipping away would leave us with the horror of a President Palin.
Saturday, November 01, 2008