Sarah Palin is the hail mary into triple coverage when you know it's the only shot at winning you've got. Obama essentially took the Olympics off and let McCain pound away. Yet McCain was barely able to squeak ahead in a few polls, and these in the face of unbelievable new voter registration for Democrats, and continued disinterest in McCain. It is Bob Dole all over again, and now here comes a cross between Geraldine Ferraro, Mike Huckabee, and Harriet Miers to join him.
McCain has to get the religious right AND the disgruntled Hillary supporters to win this thing. So he picked someone with the Ferraro woman factor, with Huckabee style scientific looniness (Palin denies evolution, global warming, and well, everything), and the possibility that it will be one giant Miers head fake to make whoever he chooses next look that much better by comparison.
I don't think it's that last scenario, at least not predetermined, but don't discount it if the polls tank. I think it's just all he had left, having tried everything else and seeing it was clear he wasn't going to win unless he tried something aggressive and risky. And for what it's worth, bully for him.
However, I think that, barring a catastrophe on the other side as is always possible, it is going to get him killed in the election, Dole-style. He's given away his best intellectual line of attack, Obama's inexperience, by adding someone to his ticket that has less. Obama was winning among more educated voters anyway, and this will only make McCain's deficit among them worse.
He's never going to win the style contest with Obama, who is a better speaker, and more pleasant to look at, a factor which, while sounding shallow, has driven the presidential election process since it was first shown on TV. Recall golden boy Kennedy whipped melting Nixon according to those who watched the TV broadcast, but not according to those who listened on the radio. McCain looks like he's got one foot in the grave standing next to Palin, which is only going to exacerbate anxiety about her inexperience, since she'd have an all-time high of becoming president from the VP slot.
Perhaps McCain's best chance to strike gold with this is in the VP debate. It didn't take a psychic to see the excitement in the eyes of the Democrats when they contemplated Biden taking on the top Republican VP candidates. Yet here is a candidate that threatens to win the debate due to Biden looking like a pompous bastard as he thrashes her. Recall that when Lloyd Bentsen gave Dan Quayle this classic gut shot, the polls didn't much change and Bush/Quayle went on to beat Dukakis/Bentsen. So take heed laughing Democrats, you've screwed up a situation almost this good before.
Still, Obama is too good at this for that. He's too smooth to get caught looking like an idiot in a tank, and he showed against Hillary his skill at holding onto a lead simply by not making mistakes. I predict a steady slide in the polls for McCain after perhaps a small short-lived blip, followed by a solid drop after the first debate.