There is a certain ebb and flow to most political campaigns. One candidate or the other develops positive momentum and takes a lead. The other either mounts a comeback or doesn't but these things tend to develop over time. Seldom is there a seismic event that causes an otherwise competitive race to become a landslide overnight.
A memorable exception to this rule occurred two years ago when incumbent Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia was running for re-election with a comfortable lead when, for some reason, he decided to taunt a non-caucasian photographer who was filming him at a campaign event--repeatedly calling him "macaca." That term is an African racial slur used against Black people and word itself is derived from a word for "monkey."
Suddenly the campaign was over. Underdog Democrat Jim Webb became an overwhelming favorite and won the election easily. What was a competitive race ended overnight months before the election due to a single disastrous decision.
It's still to soon to tell, but John McCain may have had his Macaca Moment last week when he shocked the political world by picking Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska to be his running mate.
McCain began the week with positive momentum. He had pulled even with Barack Obama in most national polls and had gone ahead in a few of them. Then he got hit with a hugely successful Democratic Convention where Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama hit the ball out of the park in five consecutive at bats. Then, the next day, McCain announced that he had picked Palin, a former beauty queen who he had met one time to be his vice-presidential candidate.
By the end of the week, Obama's lead was back up to eight percentage points. I believe the race is over.
The pick was clearly a desperation move by the Republicans who realized after Denver that McCain had no chance to beat Obama unless they threw and connected with a Hail Mary pass. So they abandoned McCain's "maverick" choice of Joe Lieberman and the "ready to be commander in chief on day one" choices of Tom Ridge and Mitt Romney for a young attractive hockey mom who had never lived outside Idaho or Alaska and had no experience in the areas of national security, foreign affairs or economics.
Now they act shocked that they are learning details about Governor Palin's past that are surprising and disturbing. What did they expect? They never sent a team of McCain people to Alaska to learn about her themselves until four days after they picked her.
McCain campaign was seriously damaged in July when he violated his earlier promise not to run a negative campaign. With Karl Rove protege Steve Schmidt calling the shots, the campaign went into full smear mode with McCain calling Obama a traitor who was willing to lose the Iraq war and a person who didn't care about genocide.
But in late August, McCain seemed to be back on track and gaining traction until he self-destructed with the Palin pick.
Now every effective line McCain has used against Obama can be thrown right back at him. How can McCain dwell on Obama's inexperience when he has picked an even younger less experienced person to be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office? After McCain questioned Obama's patriotism, he announced that "I'm not questioning your patriotism, I'm questioning your judgement." Who isn't questioning McCain's judgement after this inexplicable selection?
The Republican pipe dream that Palin will somehow enhance McCain's status as a maverick and would attract disgruntled female supporters of Hillary Clinton was flawed from the start. The selection of the anti-choice, pro-gun Palin who supports teaching creationism in the public schools shows McCain to be firmly under the control of the most Conservative Right Wing elements of his party. And it has already been pointed out by many women that to assume Clinton supporters would ever warm up to Palin is an insult to their intelligence.
They used a sketchy weather forecast as an excuse to cancel George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from the Republican Convention. At this point, they might as well cancel the whole thing.
The race is over. McCain has knocked himself out with one punch.