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The myth that Sarah Palin "came out of nowhere"

Submitted by Simon on Thu, 09/04/2008 - 12:16am

To believe the narrative created by the media since August 29th, John McCain's decision to pick Sarah Palin was a bolt from the blue, foreseen by nobody. It was branded as a "snap choice"; a surprise, "a stunning selection of a little-known conservative newcomer"; a "surprise choice" that "confounded conventional wisdom"; "a stunning surprise, as McCain passed over many other better-known prospects, some of whom had been the subject of intense speculation for weeks or months."

She was "the most unlikely choice of a running mate" since Dan Quayle, and "[n]ot since [that pick] ... has a running mate choice been greeted with such a loud and collective 'Who?'" McCain's "astonishing choice for a running mate," the "little-known," "obscure" Alaskan Governor was "stunn[ing]" and "amazing." Palin "was on almost no one's short list" and "seemingly came out of nowhere to become John McCain's running mate, and the talk of the Republican Party," "mystif[ying] many in the Lower 48." She is "the out-of-nowhere walk-on whom everyone wants to see perform on a big stage."

But as Time adequately put the point, "the real surprise about Sarah Palin's selection as his running mate is that it's such a surprise." How is it that the MSM was caught off-guard (assuming that they actually were), when Palin's name has been in circulation among conservatives as a possible veep for McCain for months? Let's take a very short look at the history of what the MSM apparently didn't know.

In July 2007, The Weekly Standard profiled Palin; Adam Brickley started publishing his "Palin for VP" blog the same month, and has been touting Palin ever since. Instapundit, the most widely-read blog on the right, flagged Brickley's efforts in September 2007 and expressed interest. By the end of that month, Patrick Ruffini was getting interested in Palin as a "possible GOP vice presidential candidate."

In early 2008, the American Scene thought Palin "seem[ed] very appealing" as a "non-obvious" veep pick and Stop the ACLU said that Palin "would be a great choice." The American Spectator ran a column in February urging that McCain pick Palin. The same month, Ace of Spades pronounced Palin "the perfect nominee for vice president" and Rush Limbaugh said that Palin was "high up on the list, now, of potential vice presidents for Senator McCain." At the end of February, the idea started to seep into the MSM when The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza interviewed Palin and floated the idea of her being the veep.

McCain's pointman Arthur Culvahouse and his team were in Alaska vetting Palin back in May, and noting this, Wizbang's Kevin said that "Governor Palin would (in my estimation) make an excellent VP candidate for McCain." HotAir, one of the most heavily-trafficked blogs on the right, concurred, Allahpundit saying that he was "warming up" to Palin. Allahpundit ran a poll, where Palin garnered 2705 votes - running away with it compared to the runner-up, Romney, who managed only 1588. By the end of May, Conservathink was touting McCain-Palin in a post highlighted by conservative blog mothership RedState. At this point, the buzz had reached a point where even the Associated Press had noticed that Palin "ha[d] been mentioned as a potential running mate for presidential candidate John McCain."

At the start of June widely-read moderate Ann Althouse expressed interest in "potential VP candidate Sarah Palin" (the NYT can hardly claim to be unacquainted with Althouse, given that it had her write a column for them for two and a half weeks). The day before, Palin had appeared on Glenn Beck's CNN show; Beck floated her as a veep. By mid June, Cap'n Ed was making positive noises and Outside the Beltway considered it a given than Palin was under consideration. By late June Politico ran a column suggesting that she could be in the mix; noting that column, OTB's James Joyner was skeptical about picking Palin, but made the important point for our purposes here: "Palin has become a darling of the conservative blogosphere in recent months and has been touted quite a bit. She’s no doubt a rising star." At this point, Stop the ACLU "jump[ed] on the Sarah Palin bandwagon."

By the start of July, bloggers including myself, The Corner's Jonah Goldberg, Sundries Shack,'s Matt Lewis and Beldar were expressing interest. By late July, Palin won an online Wall Street Journal poll of preferred veep picks, Reason magazine was referring to Palin as "the dark horse blogosphere choice for John McCain's running mate", Politico noticed that Newt Gingrich was advancing Palin as a possible veep pick, National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez was on board and Powerline was contemplating her poll numbers. These are not obscure corners of the web.

Palin appeared on Larry Kudlow's CNBC show on August 1st, and was asked about the speculation she might be the veep nominee. By mid-August, Atlas Shrugged thought that Palin was a possibility; I was expressly calling for her to be the pick; a poll on National Review's "The Corner" was dominated by Palin. The day before McCain announced that he was choosing Palin, Ross Douthat said that "[f]or a few months now, I've inclined toward Sarah Palin as a gamble worth taking" for the veep position, and Laurie Morrow offered the "top 10 reasons McCain's VP should be Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

So - decide for yourself. Did Palin's nomination "come out of nowhere"? And what does it say about the MSM that they thought it did?

Previously-debunked Palin memes: Sarah wasn't vetted (or was inadequately-vetted) | Sarah was picked because she's a she | Choosing Sarah was a mistake | Sarah said she didn't know what the veep does | Abstinence-only education failed Bristol Palin

References: "The most unlikely choice of a running mate": Washington Post, Aug. 30 p.A10. "Not since [that pick] ... has a running mate choice been greeted with such a loud and collective 'Who?'": Chicago Tribune, Aug. 29. "[A]stonishing choice for a running mate": Harrisburg Patriot News, Aug. 31 p.F2. "[L]ittle-known": Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Aug. 30, p.A1. "[O]bscure": LA Times, Aug.30 p.A30. "[S]tunned": Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug. 30, p.A1. "[A]mazing": Baltimore Sun, Sept. 3 p.A23. "[O]n almost no one's short list": NY Times, Aug. 30 p.A18. "[S]eemingly came out of nowhere to become John McCain's running mate, and the talk of the Republican Party": The Associated Press, The Edge: GOP rising stars or not, Aug. 31. "[M]ystif[ying] many in the Lower 48": Seattle Times, Aug. 30, p.A1. "[T]he out-of-nowhere walk-on whom everyone wants to see perform on a big stage": NY Daily News, Aug. 31 p.25.

Post facto:
What Ace Said (9/6/08)

Cavuto had on again that

Cavuto had on again that Hillary supporter who was supporting McCain. She said that McCain mentioned Palin months ago to an group as a possible VP choice.

I'm wondering what everyone thought about the governor of Hawaii though.

Reply re Governor of Hawaii comment

Dude--I live in Hawaii and I can tell you exactly why our Bush-cheer leading Governor, Linda Lingle, was not chosen for the VP slot---in all my collected years, having lived in a total of 8 states in every corner our great nation, and a couple in the interior, never have I ever known a governor who was as talented and prolific as our Linda Lingle at being able to put the "goober" in "Gubernatorial".

I had been thinking of doing this too!

I am SO happy someone has written precisely this researched timeline about her, as the vetting situation rumours went viral.

Thank you, SIMON! A much needed post on the matter.

P.S.: My own post about it dates from 29 May, 2008, thanks to you and Ruth Anne. I've been talking about her to my parents, and friends excitedly since then. It's like hitting the lottery.


Great post! I'd been

Great post! I'd been thinking that this would be a good topic, but you've pre-empted it thoroughly and skillfully!

I'm now at 37 Palin posts (soon to be 38 after I link yours here), but my first one was actually on June 7th. But I'm honored to be included among those outside Alaska who were early examples of Palinfatuation.


I believe that the MSM was thinking in terms of and blinded by McCain going for the traditional political choice; a well seasoned, experienced, professional politician; someone from the Beltway. Someone they knew. Instead, he picked a well seasoned, experienced governor from outside the beltway who the cognoscenti hardly knew. There only response was- "how could he do this to us?"

They really did not pay any attention to or just ignored all of the attention given to Palin. Now they actually have to work for a living. They do not know her. She is not part of the establishment. All they can do is make fun of her and her lifestyle and life choices. Unfortunately, as proven in the speech last night, she will have the last laugh.

They don't take conservative women seriously

The Lefties in the MSM don't take conservative women seriously, so they let Palin slide by without noticing her, the way subjects in that famous experiment didn't see the guy in the monkey suit.

When that Scottish guy on late-night TV knows more about the VP pick than you do, maybe it's time to quit journalism and take up macrame.


I thought Governor Lingle was dull, unfortunately. She had some good things to say but her delivery ruined them. I am grateful they moved her out of the last hour.

it's just shorthand

The phrase "came out of nowhere" is just shorthand for the fact that most folks have never heard of her. Given that most of her supporters didn't seem, at least to me, to actually think she had a shot, I'd say it's a fairly accurate description within the context of the way the phrase is usually used.

Almost no one really "comes from out of nowhere." If they're 40 years old, they have a life and a story.
You of all people should understand this well Simon. It happens all the time (or it used to) when bands would have a hit after years and years of toiling, and folks would say they came from out of nowhere. It is a bit of a silly phrase.

I have often said, and oftener think, that this world is a comedy for those who think, and a tragedy for those who feel. -Horace Walpole

No, Brian, it's a frame

Palin was so demonstrably and widely considered to be in the mix, the MSM's claims to be blindsided by the pick seem suspicious, a fortiori in light of their nakedly hostile coverage since August 29th. I can't help but suspect that this somewhat overwrought "who?!" is less the product of real ignorance than a useful way to frame the subsequent reporting.

"When someone says their heart needs lifting, don't ask how come, ask how high."

re: Caught off guard (assuming that they actually were)

Well that's just it right there! They knew about Sarah Palin. They knew he was on his short list. But they thought... nahhh, he wouldn't dare. He wouldn't DARE pick Sarah Barracuda. Not our old buddy John McCain... and then he did. And they were pissed.

Thanks A Lot Simon

You made my post from yesterday that had a mere seven links look like complete and utter crapola.

I'm off to nurse my bruised and battered ego.

(Seriously, great post!)

Exhaustive as always, Simon

As part of my prep for my post on where VP selections come from, I was reminded of Dan Quayle. Though I was never particularly impressed with him, I noted the critiques of Quayle: "not ready", "inexperienced", "Not Jack Kennedy" etc. What struck was he was a two term Rep and then an "into his second term" US Senator (with re-election by a huge margin). Dare I suggest that the "not ready" label is a standard attack on the VEEP nominee who doesn't "look the part" (i.e. gray hair and testicles). I also wonder if Palin's nomination was intentionally (or otherwise) compared to Biden (i.e. many term senator, foreign policy experience) even though it was an "apples/oranges" comparison.


re: Dare I suggest ... a standard attack?

Oh yes, you dare. Quayle always got a raw deal from the press. He was a good, smart guy who just wasn't necessarily an awesome public speaker.

I've been pushing a Palin Vice Presidency since February

I've been boosting Palin on PrestoPundit since February. The reason this "out of nowhere" story appears in the Blue State media is because the Democrat press corp spends its time reading and echoing the left wing blogs, and the MSM don't read any of the conservative political blogs -- so the are like a one eyed horse with blinders one, they only see the world of the left. For variety, they check out the FAR left.

It's a poverty of reading variety which explain the tunnel vision of the media. Another example of "multiculturalism" and leftwing "diversity" without the "multi" or the "diversity" -- when it comes to facts and ideas that go beyond the leftist / Democrat / Blue State conventional thinking.

Palin Pick

I have been talking about her since March...NEVER thought that McCain would pick her. The Main Stream (totally clueless, unimaginative) media are just mad because they didn't see it coming. Lots of conservatives who get their news online have known about her for quite a while...I learned about her last December. She is a great pick...and totally qualified.

Michelle Frazier
Houston, Texas

Mainstream(?) Media Palin mention

Don't forget Bill Kristol pushing her on FOX News.

lots of people saw Palin coming

In late July, I did a pool in my office for people to predict the VPs. Two of the 10 entries named her her their first pick, and another two listed her as their backup pick. The other 3 besides me were all big liberals. So it wasn't just conservatives who knew about her.

Palin appears in JibJab 2008 Election spoof

Check out the JibJab 2008 sendable - Time for some Campaignin'. 25 second mark. That's Palin hanging out on the McCain bus (second from the right).

If JibJab could see her on their radar, how come none of the other media could.

Palin -- since JUL 07

Hey, we have been a fan since JUL of last year.

Ingram met Palin before the Weelkly Standard article

I went to a speaking engagement that WKRB in Anchorage, Alaska put together for Laura Ingrahm. I know she is friends with Fred Barnes and I think but do not know that she may have floated the idea for him to do a write up about our Governor. Also when Laura went on the air after her visit to Alaska she sang the praises of the Governor she just met. So I want to thank Laura for in my opinion introducing our great Governor to the world.

Palin was no out of the blue pick

I was (and still am) a Ron Paul supporter. I actually first learned of Sarah Palin back in Sept 07 when she was mentioned as a possible running mate for Ron Paul!

I think this is a GREAT pick for McCain. I do not like McCain, but I will now vote for him because my new motto is "Vote for McCain, get Palin in 4".

So, my point is that if you are a Conservative, you were well aware of Gov. Palin. Only the lefties were left out! ;-)

Palin choice

Perhaps the MSM - and others - should have taken the time to actually do some research and read a February, 2008 ALASKA magazine article regarding Governor Palin.
The author states that there was already a website of supporters for VP:, likes her so much it has started a grass-roots campaign to get her elected as the nation?s next vice president.\
Another interesting item mentioned by the author states: meeting with the British consul from San Francisco. I guess that wouldn't count as any "foreign policy" experience since the consul was from SF.

After reading the article, all I can say is GOOD LUCK to her opponents!

Well done

Excellent post. It's well-researched, thorough, and fair.

I guess this ruins your chance at a media career.

Agreed. The media assumed

Agreed. The media assumed she didn't have a chance (sexism, anyone?). Many conservatives, like me, wanted her all along.

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