Palin is a very smart pick for McCain. There’s been talk of Alaska maybe being a swing state; choosing Palin pretty much eliminates that possibility. She is immensely popular up there – even after a minor scandal, she only dropped to 80% approval.
It’s true that Alaska is only 3 electoral votes, but they could be critical in a very tight race. And choosing Palin is far more likely to sway Alaskans than choosing Pawlenty will sway Minnesota. Romney might sway Michigan, but the connection there is tenuous; and McCain has Utah in the bag and will never have Massachusetts. So in terms of a VP maybe bringing a state with her/him, Palin’s got the best chance.
But more importantly, choosing Palin has an excellent chance of pulling in all the PUMA-type folks who will say, “Oh, finally we can have a woman in one of the top two slots. Sure, she’s not President, but just wait four years (or less)…”
This could be a momentous pick and some serious trouble for Obama after a long primary with lots of claims of sexism, and then not choosing a woman for his VP.