I think Dan and pmm have fair points about Palin’s role in contributing to McCain’s unpopularity at this point, but in the end, I think Palin is mostly a distraction. If this election were a referendum on experience, Obama himself would be in trouble. What’s really at issue is judgment. Looking at polls on Iraq, the future of U.S. foreign policy, and stewardship of the economy, the American people think George W. Bush has shown poor judgment, and they have little confidence that McCain is going to be different.
The real problem is McCain. McCain is campaigning against the media; Obama is campaigning for the presidency. McCain chose a running mate who’s a bigger story than he is; Obama is the biggest story in years. Whether you’re unhappy about foreign policy, domestic spending, unrestrained executive power, or anything else, there’s little in McCain’s message or his demeanor that says he cares about conservatives who don’t like the direction the Republican party is heading. Seeing his routine at the Al Smith dinner, I thought: there’s the McCain we like, the self-effacing public servant whose good humor goes far. And the next day, he was back to his latter-day campaign self: angry, erratic and bellicose.
With people upset, markets shaken, and the country already bogged down in war, that’s just a lethal combination.