Last Sunday, 24 hours after Mr. Obama announced his running mate, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Mr. McCain met with his senior campaign team at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Phoenix. By then, campaign advisers said, the group had long decided that Mr. McCain’s “experience versus change” argument against Mr. Obama had run its course, to the extent that it had worked at all.
At the same time, Mr. Obama’s coming acceptance speech before a stadium of about 80,000 people (and what turned out to be a television audience of nearly 40 million) loomed large. As much as the campaign was publicly dismissing Mr. Obama as a celebrity in a rock-star setting, the concern was that his command of such a large crowd on the last night of the Democratic convention would give him the aura of a president.
In any case, one campaign adviser said, Mr. McCain hated running as the wizened old hand of experience. Despite his embrace this year of President Bush and many of the administration’s policies, Mr. McCain, a campaign adviser said, still saw himself as the maverick who delighted in occasionally throwing political grenades at his own Party.
Ms. Palin, and not Mr. Pawlenty or Mr. Romney, would reinforce Mr. McCain’s self-image, an adviser said. She had a reputation as a reformer in Alaska, she hunted and fished, and she had once belonged to a union. Just as crucial, Ms. Palin, 44, was beloved by the party’s religious base but did not come off as shrill. “She’s conservative,” Mr. Black said, “but she’s not an ideologue.”
This wasn't a VP selection process. It was a middle-age crisis. Couldn't he have just bought a convertible?