Perhaps this may help to clarify my and George Will's immovable atheism when it comes to the Almighty Importance of a vice-presidential pick.
The question arises of Sarah Palin, incontrovertibly the lousiest vp choice -- in terms of suitability for an instant promotion -- in American political history. Palin was of course the freakish focus of media attention throughout much of the general campaign; but that attention and all the surrounding controversy say nothing about her actual effect on the McCain vote.
So let's turn to Jonathan Chait's analysis of October, 2010:
Is the impact of Palin unknowable? Well, you can't prove anything. But political scientists have tried to measure it and found that she had an extraordinarily large, and negative, impact.
But what, precisely, did Chait's "political scientists" conclude? It's almost comically unintelligible:
Judgment on her was incontestably important.... But why? We are unaware of any theory that opens the door to serious impact from the bottom half of the ticket.
Back to Chait:
And yet another paper estimated the impact of Palin as minus two points, which, again, is extraordinarily large for a vice-presidential nominee.
Now, again, this doesn't prove anything, although it's pretty suggestive.
As suggestive, say, as what political scientists Brian Brox and Madison Cassels concluded in 2009?
In the final analysis, it seems unlikely that Palin had much of an impact on presidential voting. She certainly did not have a substantive impact on partisan voters, and although she could have had an impact on white independents, it would have required far higher evaluations of the vice-presidential nominee in order to sway a significant portion of independent voters to vote for McCain.
Now remember: all this controversial muddle and academic inconclusiveness is in relation to the unquestionably lousiest vp choice in American political history.
Thus in the absence of any firm, affirmative evidence on the existence of the VP's Almighty Importance, I and George Will remain unambiguously atheistic.