The 1972 Democratic National Convention was, by all reports, chaotic. George McGovern had a solid delegate lead coming into the convention, but didn't seal the deal until he won a couple of hotly contested test votes at the convention. He then turned to the question of a running mate, only to be rebuffed by his first choice -- Ted Kennedy -- and at least a couple of other choices. Eventually, he settled on Missouri Senator Tom Eagleton; it was hardly a carefully vetted selection and it soon turned into a fiasco, but again McGovern was operating in relatively difficult circumstances. Also in McGovern's defense: Eagleton went on to continue to have a perfectly respectable Senate career. As near as I can tell, he retired with an excellent reputation.
In 2008, John McCain basically won the nomination on Super Tuesday, which was February 5, but Mike Huckabee fought all the way to March 4, when he withdrew and McCain clinched it. The deadline for selecting a running mate was the Republican National Convention, scheduled for September 1. Oh, sure, perhaps you would want the veepstakes to be concluded at least a few days before the convention, but the hard deadline was September 1.
Which means that McCain's campaign had almost all of March to select and vet a running mate. And all of April. And all of May. And all of June. And all of July. And all of August.
And they -- and he -- selected someone who, whatever her many, many, many other flaws, was currently under an ethics investigation in her state. I mean, how do you do that? It's really hard to believe the level of irresponsibility, and really I don't see how Republicans have ever forgiven McCain for it.
The other notes...it's been clear for some time, of course, that Palin wasn't really capable for whatever reason of running a proper campaign, and it's certainly possible she never had any intention of contesting the primaries, but by my standards I'm still going to say that she (like Christie, and Barbour, and the rest) ran and lost. Pending further reporting, we'll never know for sure what her goals have been these last three years, but when you're the recent VP candidate and you spend your time doing things that presidential candidates do, then in my book you're a presidential candidate. Just, in this case, a spectacularly inept one.
At least this simplifies things a bit. I've been saying for a while that the field is set, but hadn't quite wanted to definitely rule a Palin nomination out...it seemed increasingly unlikely, but I didn't know exactly where to draw the line between unlikely and entirely implausible. At least that's done with now. It's gonna be Rick Perry or Mitt Romney, unless something wildly implausible happens. Hey, for Republicans, it certainly could have been a whole lot worse -- I doubt if either of them will embarrass the party as badly as John McCain did, and they both would probably be much better presidents than George W. Bush. My line for a while has been that the GOP is increasingly unlikely to nominate someone crazy, but is increasingly certain to nominate someone who has had to say crazy things to get the nod, and that's pretty much how it's turning out.