3. John McCain Selects Sarah Palin
In 2008, John McCain ran his second and final presidential campaign in an attempt to succeed his former rival, George W. Bush. With the incumbent President facing historically low approval ratings, most analysts foresaw defeat for the Republican ticket. However, McCain made one last play for victory when he selected the virtually-unknown Sarah Palin as his running-mate against Barack Obama.
McCain had prided himself on running as a center-right Republican who always spoke with respect toward his opponent. However, upon taking on Palin, the GOP campaign took on a much more populist tone, leading to several uncomfortable moments wherein supporters criticized Obama with xenophobic and racially-tinged insults. Following the defeat, moderate Republicans and populist conservatives debated over whether Palin helped or hurt the ticket. Eventually, Palin helped lead the insurgent “Tea Party” to take over the GOP in 2010, which partially assisted in reelecting Obama in 2012 with its radical rhetoric, only further inflaming the populist portions of the Republican Party.