The last two weeks have seen Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s numbers fade fast. Really fast. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that some 47 percent of respondents now have a negative view of Palin, and a full 55 percent said she wasn’t qualified to be president. Shortly after the Republican convention, Palin’s national favorability was near 60 percent.
It begs the question, who might be better? Politics magazine contributor Scott Detrow says in Pennsylvania, a lot of people think it would be former Governor Tom Ridge. Detrow pens this from a battleground state that, with the help of Palin, might be losing its battleground status…
So Pennsylvania has become John McCain’s O.K. Corral. He’s standing his ground there, despite the many polls that give Barack Obama a double digit lead. Despite the Democrats’ 1.2 million voter advantage over Republicans. And despite the fact the Keystone State hasn’t gone red since 1988. Today’s Quinnipiac Poll gives Obama a 13-point lead in Pennsylvania, but Republican officials insist their internals have the race in single digits. And rumors have begun flying around the state that the Democrats think it’s closer, too.
Governor Ed Rendell is making public appeals for Obama to start stumping in Pennsylvania again. “I’m still a little nervous,” he told reporters earlier this week. “I have asked Obama to come back. We understand he’s got demands from 20 different states, but we’d like to see him here.” Going with the idea that Pennsylvania is a hot battleground, what could McCain have done differently to get an edge there? One theory—pick former Governor Tom Ridge as his running mate.
Along with Joe Lieberman, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, the popular two-term governor was seen as a finalist for the spot. Like Lieberman, his pro-choice record severely hurt his chances. But Christopher Borick, who runs Muhlenberg College’s daily Pennsylvania tracking poll, says Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been a serious drag for the Republican ticket.
“Her overall favorability has seen a steady decline since late September,” he explains. “We asked if respondents think she’d be qualified to be president, and almost by a two to one margin, Pennsylvanians say no. It’s hard to argue that she’s been a benefit for the McCain camp.”
Borick isn’t sure how Ridge would play outside the Keystone State, but he insists a McCain-Ridge ticket would have had a better shot at its 21 electoral votes. “Would he have done better with Ridge? Absolutely. Given [Palin’s] numbers in Pennsylvania, I’d have to imagine Tom Ridge on the ticket would have made it much stronger.” So why does this matter? Well, a win in Pennsylvania would make a McCain victory much more possible. The scenario is this: a Pennsylvania victory coupled with another New Hampshire comeback could win McCain the White House. Even if Obama takes Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Virginia, McCain could break 270 with those states’ flipped votes, plus holds in Indiana, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio. It’s unlikely—each passing day makes it more unlikely—but hey, so was the Rays’ AL pennant.
And while it very much seems like a Monday morning quarterback sort of argument, University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato agrees that Tom Ridge is the one man who might have made a difference here.
“Ridge is the one [McCain] might have really been able to sell,” he says. “I always thought that his positives outweighed the negatives. He’s only deviated on one issue—abortion—but I think McCain could have overcome that. And where is McCain putting all his marbles now? Pennsylvania.”