The week before the election, the Obama campaign ran a television commercial
attacking the Republican candidate for vice president. To my knowledge, this has
never been done before.
Within days of Sarah Palin's selection by John McCain to be his running mate, there
was speculation in the news media that maternal neglect was the cause of baby Trig's
Down Syndrome; that Trig was really daughter Bristol's baby; that Sarah was a
fundamentalist who believes dinosaurs and men coexisted; that she once belonged to a
secessionist party; that as mayor of Wasilla, she tried to have popular books banned
from the town library.
None of this was true, but this was how the news media introduced Gov. Palin to
people in the lower 48. No vice presidential candidate has ever been subjected to
such a torrent of abuse.
This was a woman with no family money and no famous name who took on a corrupt
Republican governor and beat him, then swept to victory in the general election
against a popular former Democratic governor. This was a reformer who in her first
year as governor got through the legislature a bill her predecessors has sought
unsuccessfully for 35 years to build a natural gas pipeline to the lower 48, as well
as a landmark ethics reform bill. She was by far the most popular governor in
America, with an approval rating in the low 80s.
A star athlete and beauty contest winner who hunts moose and worked as a commercial
fisherman, Sarah Palin is a remarkable personal and political story. But it's a
story the news media largely ignored in favor of spreading malicious gossip.
Given the constant portrayal of Ms. Palin as an ignorant hick, it's not surprising
only 38 percent of those who voted thought she was qualified to be president.
The conventional wisdom among those who consider themselves her social superiors is
that she was a drag on the ticket.
"By picking Palin, McCain simultaneously eliminated his own best argument against
Sen. Obama -- the limited experience of his opponent -- while compounding his own
most negative image, that of someone who is erratic and out of control," said Julian
Zelizer of Newsweek.
This view is at variance with the facts. Of the 60 percent of voters who told exit
pollsters Sarah Palin was an "important factor" in their decision, 56 percent voted
for Sen. McCain. Those who said she was not an important factor voted for Sen.
Obama by a 64 to 33 percent margin.
In a Rasmussen poll taken the day before the election, 71 percent of Republicans
said Ms. Palin was the right choice for vice president, but only 65 percent said
Sen. McCain was the right choice for president. In a Rasmussen poll taken two days
after the election, 91 percent of Republicans expressed a positive view of Sarah
Palin, with 64 percent saying she should be the next GOP nominee for president.
Ms. Palin drew much larger crowds than Sen. McCain did when he campaigned alone, and
much, much larger crowds than Sen. Biden could attract. People left her rallies
more pumped up than when they arrived.
She gave a boffo performance in her acceptance speech at the Republican National
Convention, and she performed better in her debate with Sen. Biden than Sen. McCain
did in his first two debates with Sen. Obama.
Sarah Palin's appearance on Saturday Night Live, where she had been lampooned
mercilessly, brought that show its highest ratings in years.
"Her politics aren't my politics," said SNL's executive producer, Lorne Michaels.
"But you can see that she is a very powerful, very disciplined, incredibly gracious
woman. This was her first time out and she's had a huge impact. People connect to
Sen. McCain got seven million votes fewer than George W. Bush had in 2004. If Sarah
Palin hadn't been on the ticket, that deficit probably would have been much greater.
Sarah Palin is a rare political talent. I think that's why liberals have tried so
hard to define her negatively before Americans could get to know her. Whether she
has a national political future depends on her own wishes and Barack Obama's
performance. But if she should choose to run for president in 2012, she'll have my