This week my FT column looked at McCain's neglect of the political center--and why, if he had paid attention to it, he might now be leading in the polls.

Mr Obama, for all his remarkable strengths, was beatable. The fact that he is not even further ahead in the polls underlines the point. Put his race to one side: in my view, the fact that he is black is as much an advantage as a disadvantage. But he is inexperienced and his voting record is firmly to the left. Independent voters have therefore had their doubts throughout and it is independent voters who decide elections. Mr McCain was the very man to appeal to these wavering centrists. Among Republicans he was uniquely qualified because of his reputation as a pragmatist and serial deviator from the party line. Yet he failed to exploit this advantage.

The choice of Sarah Palin as running mate was pivotal. Mr McCain's mistake was not his decision to choose a social conservative with no experience of national politics. He needed a running mate to energise his party's activists, who would otherwise have found the prospect of a McCain presidency uninspiring. And inexperience, in itself, is not a disqualification for high political office - if it were, Mr Obama would be ruled out, too. The first response to Ms Palin was everything Mr McCain could have wished. She appealed not only to the conservative base but to many independents as well. The instant contempt many Democrats expressed at her selection hurt them, not her, and the Republican ticket moved ahead in the polls for the first and only time in the race.

Against the odds, this was a position from which Mr McCain could have won. But two things had to happen for him to capitalise on this advantage. First, Ms Palin needed to withstand scrutiny. Second, Mr McCain, with the conservative base now in his pocket, needed to exploit the opportunity this gave him to move his campaign to the centre.

Neither of those things happened. You can read the rest of the article here.

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