Of all the gaffes committed by the late Republican presidential nominee John McCain, the worst was choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate.

McCain was down and desperate for a bump in the polls. He figured Democrat Barack Obama would trounce him unless he made a dramatic move to win over women voters.

In selecting the inexperienced and inept governor of Alaska as his potential successor, McCain shoved aside the country’s interests for selfish reasons.

He did something else, too. By turning Palin into a national figure overnight, McCain made it easy for other insiders to promote mostly unknown politicians as contenders for vice president.

This is already happening with Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who’s been New Mexico’s top officeholder for all of nine months. She previously served for six years in the U.S. House of Representatives and two years as a Bernalillo County commissioner.

Few outside New Mexico know her name or anything about her. Still, Beltway babblers say Lujan Grisham is in the mix for the country’s second-highest office.

“I’ve recently heard of people talk about her for VP,” a Washington insider recently told my colleague, Jens Erik Gould.

Talk is cheap in Washington, a city that coddles hearsay and defies logic.

The Democrats won’t select their challenger to President Donald Trump for many months. Because the nominee is unknown, it’s probably a safe bet nobody is on deck for vice president.

Mindless speculation about the vice presidency worked to the advantage of former New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Southwestern version of Palin.

Martinez was the longtime district attorney of Doña Ana County when she first ran for governor in 2010. She wasn’t intellectually curious or steeped in how to run a good government. But everything broke her way in what was a big year for Republicans.

Almost as soon as Martinez took office in 2011, various handlers and even some reporters were determined to mention her as someone who might become the Republican vice presidential nominee.

A reporter for a daily newspaper in Pennsylvania anointed Martinez, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and a few others as vice presidential contenders in February 2011. This was seven weeks after Martinez became governor and more than a year before Republicans would settle on their nominee for president.

The Pennsylvania reporter included this simple-minded paragraph in her story: “Susana Martinez? She’s Hispanic, female and a tough law-and-order conservative who came out of nowhere after four terms as district attorney in Las Crusas, (sic) New Mexico’s second-largest city, said New Mexico pollster Brian Sanderoff.”

No doubt Sanderoff cringed at the misspelling of Las Cruces. But politicians regard this kind of publicity as a plus.

By the spring of 2012, Mitt Romney was on his way to becoming the Republican presidential nominee. And Martinez’s name was included regularly in more speculative stories about who would join him on the ticket.

Martinez always had the same reaction publicly.

“It’s humbling, but I’m not interested,” she said.

Had Romney called with an offer to be his running mate, her answer probably would have been that she was humbled and so interested she would accept.

But he never asked. Martinez and the 127 others who had been mentioned as strong possibilities for vice president continued to say they never wanted the job anyway.

Some brought up John Nance Garner, a two-term vice president under Franklin Roosevelt, who supposedly said the office “is not worth a bucket of warm spit.”

Romney lost the presidential election to Obama. This was bad for most Republicans, but good for Martinez. His defeat meant she continued to be mentioned as a vice presidential contender for 2016.

Martinez, though, took herself out of the running in December 2015. She staged a loud, boozy party at a Santa Fe hotel. Some said beer bottles flew off a balcony. Police were summoned.

Martinez, speaking to an emergency dispatcher, said officers should stand down, being that she was the governor and her guests were enjoying pizza and Coca-Cola.

Her tone was officious; her speech slurred. Maybe she knew just how to end all that silly talk about her being vice presidential timber.

I’m ending it, too.

If there’s anything more useless than the office of lieutenant governor, it’s guesswork about who Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg or somebody else will choose next summer as a running mate.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

(5) comments

S. Sh

How liberals love to rewrite history. The facts are - without Palin there would have been no base to come out and vote for McCain. In the rush to destroy Palin liberals and some so-called conservatives have forgotten that McCain had to campaign with her instead splitting up because he couldn't even draw a crowd. The all-out war on Palin was not at all because she was ineffective or a drag on his campaign. Just the opposite. There was even a college that did a study and concluded that she was a net positive for his campaign. I knew people that were disinterested in McCain until he tapped her for VP. Campaign volunteers will tell you that they were overrun with volunteers only after he picked her. Also forgotten, is the thousands and more people that stood in lines for hours at her book signings long after the campaign was done. some of them camped out all night in the cold. I can't recall one losing VP candidate, Democrat or Republican that ever got that response. Probably why most of the elitists in both parties prefer to forget.

Khal Spencer

The usual dour suspects show up to dump on Milan. He is on point here. McCain goofed badly; Palin was not competent to be a VP, not to mention Gov of AK. Gov. Martinez was not a great governor, so promoting her as a potential VP was silly. Simonich's main point, that all this speculation is silly, is exactly right.

Richard Reinders

Milan , you could have easily done this article without wiping your feet on the grave of a hero and patriot who spent his life serving the country John McCain. Show a little class, has this country gotten to a place they forgot their manners.

Diane Denish

THis is a sleezy article all around. Notice that most of it is about women who are mentioned as VP material. The tone of the article is cynical, nasty, and useless. I love the New Mexican but Milan shows his sexist bias every chance he gets.

Suzanne Tesh

Thank you Diane, I was wondering as a new online out-of-state subscriber, whether the vulgar language in the headline is considered acceptable by the paper's editors and readers. I personally find it highly offensive and in my opinion, out of keeping with the guidelines for writing such an online comment as mine.

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