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Everything You Need to Understand Palin: BOA

The political world is still reeling from Sen. John McCain’s Hail Mary pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who announced on Monday that her daughter is pregnant. Even before this announcement, much attention had been focused on Palin’s family and background — since she was so new to the national stage. Yet if this decision is so shocking, so risky – why did McCain make it?

In an excellent, data-driven analysis, The New York Times’ John Harwood offers a short answer: B.O.A. The pick was purely reactive, he explains, driven by the politics of Bush, Obama and abortion. In his second term, President George W. Bush has exploded the GOP brand:

On Election Day 2004, exit polls showed there were as many voters claiming allegiance to the Republican Party as there were self-identified Democrats. Nearly four years later, surveys show Democrats with an edge of nearly 10 percentage points in party self-identification. To win under those circumstances, McCain strategists calculate that he must draw roughly 55 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats, besting the 48 percent and 11 percent that Mr. Bush drew four years ago.

Then there’s the unique challenge of running against a candidate who has consistently enlarged the voting pool:

If Mr. Obama’s mobilization drive succeeds in enlarging the Democratic electorate, Mr. McCain’s hill would grow even steeper.

McCain could have met the above challenge with other seasoned candidates, like former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge – who might also have helped put the huge swing state of Pennsylvania into play. But since Ridge is pro-choice, Harwood argues that picking him might also bring an early end to McCain’s presidential hopes. The abortion divide is “so deep that even a candidate trying to reinforce his maverick image dare not cross it,” writes Harwood.

If you accept Harwood’s cold, non-partisan analysis, then two conclusions are inescapable:

First, McCain put politics above country in the most important decision of this campaign. (More from Michael Cohen here.)

Second, he is in a far weaker political position than his campaign — and most of the press — have acknowledged. He is in a completely reactionary posture, struggling to respond to realities created by far stronger forces than he can muster – the politics of Bush, Obama and Abortion.

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