The media world is briefly abuzz over the long-awaited and long-dreaded Joe McGinniss book about his old next-door neighbors, the Palins of Alaska. What amazes me is that some writers here in the lower 48 continue to feel that some of the better-sourced revelations will finally make her unpopular in her home state. They’ve gotten it wrong from the beginning. Most of the journalistic observers closest to her have always seen her for what she is.
I charted this on an almost daily basis during the 2008 campaign (and in my book Why Obama Won), but it may surprise you to learn that this process began within hours of Senator John McCain’s picking her as his running mate. Polls at the same time explode the myth that Palin was always “popular with women”—she’s always been more of a male fantasy. Another myth: She was largely an asset in drawing votes — not just crowds — for McCain, when careful analysis shows quite the opposite.
Here’s what I wrote in a column in the immediate aftermath of her anointment, on August 31, 2008:
For the past 24 hours, the pages and web sites of the two leading papers in Alaska have raised all sorts of issues surrounding Gov. Sarah Palin, from her ethics problems to general lack of readiness for this big step up. Right now the top story on the Anchorage Daily News web site looks at new info in what it calls “troopergate” and opens: “Alaska’s former commissioner of public safety says Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain’s pick to be vice president, personally talked him on two occasions about a state trooper who was locked in a bitter custody battle with the governor’s sister.
“In a phone conversation Friday night, Walt Monegan, who was Alaska’s top cop until Palin fired him July 11, told the Daily News that the governor also had e-mailed him two or three times about her ex-brother-in-law, Trooper Mike Wooten, though the e-mails didn’t mention Wooten by name. Monegan claims his refusal to fire Wooten was a major reason that Palin dismissed him. Wooten had been suspended for five days previously, based largely on complaints that Palin’s family had initiated before Palin was governor.”
A reporter for the Anchorage Daily, Gregg Erickson, even did an online chat with the Washington Post, in which he revealed that Palin’s approval rating in the state was not the much-touted 80%, but 65% and sinking—and that among journalists who followed her it might be in the “teens.” He added: “I have a hard time seeing how her qualifications stack up against the duties and responsibilities of being president…. I expect her to stick with simple truths. When asked about continued American troop presence in Iraq, she said she knows only one thing about that (I paraphrase): no one has attacked the American homeland since George Bush took the war to Iraq.”