In August 2008, a year after polling last among Republican presidential hopefuls, Arizona Senator John McCain wins his party’s nomination, having heeded campaign strategist Steve Schmidt’s advice to forget politics and “say what’s right.” But his Democratic counterpart, Barack Obama, takes a huge lead in the polls thanks to his potent charisma and dazzling speeches, delivered in exotic locales like Berlin. Convinced their man can’t overtake Obama with a mainstream Republican as his running mate, the team decides they need a bold choice, a “game changer” to win back Independents, reach out to Republicans, and attract female voters. Charged with finding a suitable female VP candidate, fellow strategist Rick Davis suggests Sarah Palin, the charismatic though little-known Alaska governor who was elected 18 months earlier. On August 29, in front of a Dayton, Ohio audience, Palin is introduced as the VP candidate, and the crowd’s enthusiasm over the young, plain-spoken governor appears to vindicate the aides who backed her. The race now appears winnable.