Dick Cheney got a lot of attention for saying that it was mistake for McCain to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate four years ago. Cheney’s primary argument was that Palin, as the second year Governor of a small state, just wasn’t ready to assume the presidency at any moment.
Liz Cheney disagreed, tweeting that Palin was more qualified than Obama and Biden combined. That made conservatives happy, but it’s mostly generic red meat. I’m guessing that as far as Liz Cheney would be concerned, any conservative Republican would be better than any Democrat. She also didn’t elaborate whether Palin would have been better than others McCain was considering at the time.
The current wisdom is that the Palin pick was a mistake, and that it hurt John McCain on election day. I’m not so sure about that, as the numbers are ambiguous. Much of our impression of Palin is informed by things that happened after the 2008 election, such as her endorsement of Christine O’Donnell, her abrupt departure from the Governor’s office, her daughter’s TV shows and the way she got attention and raised money by claiming interest in a 2012 presidential bid until the last possible moment. This is all relevant for any arguments of whether she should have been one heartbeat away from the presidency, but it’s not something voters could consider in the 2008 election.
The decision to pick Palin made sense at that the time. McCain was running against the first African-American major party candidate, so having Palin as a a running mate ensured that a ceiling would be broken, regardless of who won. Palin had a reputation in Alaska as a maverick, so that helped reinforce a positive association about McCain’s image at a time the Republican brand was at its lowest point. Social conservatives loved her, although they were lukewarm on McCain. And that’s something that has to be remembered: the social conservatives were happy to vote for a woman for national office.
I don’t think her main problem was qualifications, although the first term Governor of a geographically isolated state is not likely to be knowledgeable about the status of the nation. Had she served a full term, or several terms, that shortcoming could easily still apply, as it did for Rick Perry.
Like Edwards and probably Cheney, she just didn’t have the character to serve in national office. While many of the attacks against her have been unfair, she was simply too petty and thin-skinned. So it wouldn’t have been much better had she served longer in office, and been more traditionally qualified for the office. I would argue that anyone who endorses a politician, and expects unambiguous support in turn isn’t fit for the office.
She also went on to choose celebrity and wealth over political office. So she’s a lot like Huckabee, who chose having a TV show on Fox over running for Senate or President. But he has a reputation for being less abrasive.