Hard to say anyone saw McCain's VP selection coming, the choice is best described as a shocker. Alaska Gov. Sarah "Barracuda" Palin, a relative unknown, wasn't even on the VP radar, and yet McCain picks her as running mate. Overall, while the pick brings potential, I would say it was a poor choice on McCain's part, and the reasons are mostly obvious.
John McCain's biggest strength is experience, that fact allowed for an distinct contrast with the relatively green Obama, in many ways his ace in the hole. Poll after poll shows McCain towering over Obama on foreign policy, terrorism, even Iraq in terms of readiness to lead. Apart from the experience angle, Obama tends to have the advantage, which makes the selection of a novice for VP very curious.
McCain likes to reference his age, and he openly suggests he would only be one-term President should he win, largely because of that fact. The age question raises the stakes for a VP pick, because it is natural to see that person as potential President, and it is because of this realit that McCain has probably erred. As the pundits are already noting, McCain's experience argument is hurt when in choosing someone with little, the person more likely than any other VP selection to actually assume office, requires lots of "on the job training". In essence, McCain has undercut his own narrative with this selection, a risk I'm not sure he needed to take, all things considered.
Within the inexperienced angle, there is also an element of political opportunism that could backfire. John McCain contradicts his experience message with an overt attempt to win over woman voters. Obama didn't pick Clinton, so McCain makes a transparent play for that ground. The optics aren't necessarily good in the first analysis, I suppose the thinking is that cyncism will yield over time, and Palin could have the right appeal.
What McCain does do, is show up his base further, and one can assume they will now be more energized. A gun-toting, anti-abortion Christian, from a tough environment, is a sure winner with the rank and file. The fact Governor Palin also seems to share McCain's anti-pork drive, a champion of ethics, outside the beltway mentality, not to mention a sometimes non-partisan perspective, should have some appeal to independents, or so they hope.
This pick is risky, a word used ad nauseum today, but it's true. There is potential for McCain with this "outside the box" selection, it surely has created buzz, and the media will give her considerable attention in the coming days. The pick could help him with key demographics, but it just as easily could blow up in McCain's face, given his true motivations. From everything I've seen, this race was tight, for all intent and purposes a draw (temporary bost-convention boost blips aside). That fact begs the question- did McCain really need the "hail mary" pass? The selection almost assumes he did, which then lends an air of desperation, hardly a good frame. Time will tell, but at first blush, I see this pick having just as much potential to hurt McCain, as to help, so for that reason, the choice might have been a mistake.