Saturday, September 06, 2008

Mike Murphy's problem with Palin

I don't doubt that John McCain's sometimes-adviser Mike Murphy is quite sincere in his lukewarm reaction to Sarah Palin. In fact it's absolutely true that if Palin turns out to be a polarizing pick, as Murphy thinks she will, the choice will turn out to be a net loss to McCain.

But isn't there something sort of self-serving about Murphy's assessment, too? In early July, there was some talk that McCain might bring Murphy on as a campaign adviser. It didn't happen, but it remained possible to imagine a campaign trajectory where, come September or so, McCain brought in Murphy to save the day and ride with him to a general election victory. It was possible to imagine that until precisely the moment that Palin's candidacy was unveiled.

This is because the Palin choice indicates a political strategy opposed to Murphy's own, what he called on live-mic his experience from the blue/swing state governor world. That's the substance. The personality part is that the choice sure seems to come out of a Steve Schmidt strategy, indicating that Karl Rove's protege is the strategist holding the reins. (More background on personalities here.)

Did Mike Murphy secretly hold out hope that McCain would eventually call him into the fold? Who knows! But even if Murphy thought of it as a 1 percent chance, the fact is that it is now a 0 percent chance. That may not be the main reason Murphy doesn't like Palin, but it's got to be in there somewhere.

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