First, Palin has been a catastrophe for McCain. Anyone who argues differently at this point is either unwilling or unable to see how little confidence she instills in the electorate that, due to McCain’s age, is forced to consider how capable she would be leading the most powerful nation on earth. She is wrong on the issues as far as I am concerned, and unlike individuals like Ronald Regan, she lacks the charisma and capacity to lead anyone outside of her ever shrinking conservative base.
A “catastrophe” in the sense of rallying moderates and independents…I say yes. Yet this was McCain's overlying problem with being elected in the Republican primary. For all intents and purposes, he is a center leaning senator (he didn't join the centrist coalition for nothing). This doesn't fit the general election framework; you're suppose to gradually shift to the center, not start from the center. On top of that, he was elected on the backs of those who weren't very conservative to begin with.
So what did McCain do, he picked someone to rally the base, someone who at first glance represents something new. The other choice, the most likely pick (i.e. Tim Pawlenty), would have received yawns. And quite honestly, I live in Minnesota (he is my Governor), I don't know of a whole lot of people who think even he is qualified to be commander in chief. McCain picked someone to complement his weaknesses.
Now Sarah Palin has the McCain campaign political image, her caricature and her real image. For whatever one you want to believe, believe. Maybe I'm too apathetic on social issues to see the threat she represents. I love Hitchens and agree with him frequently, yet I often struggle to find agreement with him when it comes to his obsession with religion. With obsession comes exaggeration. That's the way I see it.
I still stand by my view that experience at the top of the ticket matters more than the bottom of the ticket and that whoever is elected will reflect that in their presidency. There seems to be a fixation with death nowadays, on both candidates (with McCain as a walking corpse and Obama going out as a political martyr). It’s a reality that you need to look at, yet I don’t buy it. Definitely in the case against the McCain-Palin ticket. There is no heartbeat away with Obama, there is Obama right away. I still don’t see Obama governing effectively (from his foreign policy views, his ability to fight Islamist aggression and terrorists, his protectionism, the power he assumes from the tide of his political party's victories, etc.). I’m standing by that.
McCain was already working in a harsh political environment this election cycle, from a dissatisfied base, being a more center candidate for President*, an unpopular President who shares the same party as him, an economic crisis, a neutralized issue (i.e. Iraq), among other things (you can add Palin as VP choice if you like). If McCain loses (which everyday seems more likely), you have a long list to choose from for the reason why. My money is on the economy.
As an unaffiliated moderate I make my choice on a variety of factors. John McCain scores enough points for me to receive my vote. From his foreign policy outlook, his stance on Iraq, his free trade record, his pragmatic bi-partisanship, his involvement in military issues for over twenty years and the fact we are currently in two wars, that he would preside over a divided government, that he can take on his own party on certain issues, that he has a record to run on, that he believes in federalism (even when it comes to social issues), that he calls for greater transparency in foreign aid we give out, that he has a long history of rejecting purity tests, that he rejects torture...that he is the right person at this present time to be President of the United States. Barack Obama doesn't even compare.
My vote goes to John McCain.
Update 10/30/08: The New Centrist adds...
Like Daniel, I am voting for McCain because I think he is the best candidate. Like Roland, I am more than a bit worried about the direction the Republican party is heading in, especially in the event of a McCain loss. I am not a registered Republican but based on what I am reading, I have a strong feeling party stalwarts will blame the loss on McCain’s centrism.
Unfortunately there is no faction in the Republican party analogous to the Democrat’s “Blue Dog Coalition“. The Blue Dogs are a moderating influence, preventing the liberal wing from dominating the party. In the case of the Republicans, most of the moderate Republicans have been driven out, at least at the national level.
...and the debate continues.
*Clarification: With being a more center candidate, he has to deal with a hostile base while not alienating more moderate voters, it's a tricky balance. If he was more right to begin with, he could have gradually moved to the center (similar to what Obama did from the left).