One of the duties of a campaign manager is to spin–that is, not tell the truth. I remember that on Election Day 1992, Mary Matalin, a top aide for President George H.W. Bush’s reelection campaign, went on television throughout the day and said that the campaign was going to win. But its internal polls showed Bush I was heading toward a loss to Bill Clinton.
On Friday, Rick Davis, John McCain’s campaign manager, offered a similar whistling-past-the-graveyard stretcher. In a conference call with reporters, he talked up Sarah Palin, claiming she was an asset to the GOP ticket. It was a tough day for doing so. The New York Times had front-paged a poll showing that 59 percent of voters believe that Palin is not prepared to be vice president–up 9 points since the beginning of October. A third of the voters polled said that her selection would be a major factor in picking a president–and those voters favored Obama. Can you say, “drag on the ticket”?
Davis couldn’t. He told reporters:
Governor Palin’s crowds are huge. In fact, she was in a location last night, the same general vicinity of Senator Biden. He had about 800 people at his event, she had 20,000. So, all the talk that we see on television and the newspapers about what a drag Governor Palin is on our ticket can’t be further from the truth. She’s electrifying crowds all across the battleground states, and we really appreciate the hard work she’s putting in.
So Palin is helping McCain? Davis and the McCain crew seem to be alone among the politerati in believing this. No one should call the election before the votes are counted, but it does seem clear (assuming polls mean anything at all) that if McCain does manage to win it will be in spite of–not because of–Sarah Palin.