We knew John McCain was superstitious. He carries his lucky coins everywhere. And having a hurricane arrive during your convention on the anniversary week of Katrina might make anybody in his position superstitious. What we didn't know is that he is a high-stakes political gambler.

Certainly he took a huge gamble naming Sarah Palin as his running mate. Judgments on the choice vary. It was driven by desperation. It was a Hail Mary pass. It was a daring political masterstroke. We'll see.

Clearly the Palin choice is aimed at Hillary Clinton supporters who feel cheated by the process. But Palin and Clinton are at the opposite ends of the political spectrum, and while a few may vote for Palin determined to get a woman into the White House no matter what she believes, it's hard to see them deserting the liberal Democrats in great numbers.

As far as the Republican social conservatives and evangelical Christians are concerned, she was an inspired choice. She is anti-abortion, pro-gun rights and against gay marriage, to name three touchstone issues.

In her early outings she has proved to be an appealing speaker and her presence on the ticket has electrified what threatened to be a sedate, bland convention. Still, she faces a steep learning curve on national and international issues. McCain could get away with confusing Shias and Sunnis. She cannot.

Barack Obama took the safe choice with Joe Biden. McCain has gambled the White House on Palin.


— Scripps Howard News Service

Editorial by Dale McFeatters.