When 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain announced that he had selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, there was a lot of head scratching. While there was little question that Palin's presence on the ticket would bolster fundraising efforts, particularly among those who self-identify with the Tea Party, it really wasn't the kind of choice a candidate who expected to win would make.
Yes, Palin was popular amongst the Tea Party crowd, but she was a dream selection for the Obama team too. Pointing to her lack of experience and penchant for putting her foot in her mouth, the Palin selection all but guaranteed that Barack Obama would come out victorious.
Flash forward 4 years and we find a very similar kind of selection by Mitt Romney. On Saturday, he named budget hawk Rep. Paul Ryan as his presumptive running mate. Just like McCain, Romney has chosen an individual who will aid conservative fundraising, but actually makes it far less likely that Romney will win!
Ryan is a political lightening rod, if there ever was one. You either love him or detest him. There seems to be no middle ground. Since candidates tend to migrate toward the mythical center during the presidential campaign, it would appear that Romney realizes he won't be able to snatch the car keys from Obama, so he's adopted the next best strategy (for a presidential candidate): Rake in as much money as possible.
In some ways, it looks to me like Romney is rigging his own defeat. Over the last generation or two, I've come to think that the political elites get together beforehand to decide who will be the next president. Each contender is assigned a role and Romney is the one who got the short end of the stick for this year. So, in his role as the eventual loser, he chooses a vice presidential running mate that will sink his chances.
He may not personally like the choice, but he must stick to the script!