Saturday, October 25, 2008

Frum blames Palin

Don't let the facts get in your way, David:
A year ago, the Arizona senator's team made a crucial strategic decision. McCain would run on his (impressive) personal biography. On policy, he'd hew mostly to conservative orthodoxy, with a few deviations -- most notably, his support for legalization for illegal immigrants. But this strategy wasn't yielding results in the general election. So in August, McCain tried a bold new gambit: He would reach out to independents and women with an exciting and unexpected vice presidential choice.
That didn't work out so well either. Gov. Sarah Palin connected with neither independents nor women. She did, however, ignite the Republican base, which has come to support her passionately. And so, in this last month, the McCain campaign has Palinized itself to make the most of its last asset. To fire up the Republican base, the McCain team has hit at Barack Obama as an alien, a radical and a socialist.
Sure enough, the base has responded. After months and months of wan enthusiasm among Republicans, these last weeks have at last energized the core of the party. But there's a downside: The very same campaign strategy that has belatedly mobilized the Republican core has alienated and offended the great national middle, which was the only place where the 2008 election could have been won.
This narrative is so fantastically at odds with the facts that I hesitate to engage in a point-by-point rebuttal. Frum backed Rudy Giuliani in the primaries, and denounced Sarah Palin on Aug. 30. So it isn't like he waited to see how "the great national middle" would react before deciding she was the wrong choice.

It is impossible to argue that Palin hurt the GOP ticket. On Aug. 29, the Gallup Daily had Obama +8. A week after Palin's selection was announced, McCain led the Gallup poll by 5 points for three consecutive days (Sept. 7-9), and even after another week of relentless media pounding, McCain still led on Sept. 16, 47-46%.

If one had to single out any one factor, it was McCain's reaction to the financial crisis that destroyed his campaign:

From a 1-point Gallup lead on Sept. 16, McCain went to a 10-point deficit by Oct. 10 -- a period of time that covered all three Obama-McCain debates. And it was during that same time period that McCain repeatedly endorsed a big-government approach to the financial crisis.

As late as Sept. 24, it was still a three-point race. By Sept. 29 -- after McCain's push for the bailout and after the first debate Sept. 26 -- Obama led by 8 points. Attempting to hang this around Sarah Palin's neck is not merely unfair, it's absurdly counterfactual.

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