Friday, August 29, 2008

[UPDATED 9/1] Hail Sarah!

I can’t believe a guy that handsome wouldn’t have some impact.” - John McCain on George Bush picking Dan Quayle in 1988. (via Wiki)

I wonder if that tells us all we need to know about John McCain's own VP pick, apart from the fact that she's a woman. I am a little surprised the news didn't leak out sooner - no news about Secret Service details, etc. Guess the McCain camp has better control over its secrets.

More seriously, on its face, the pick reinforces the "maverick" tag, as Governor Palin was elected on a reform platform. As a commenter pointed out on dailykos, Biden might also not go hammer-and-tongs at Governor Palin during the VP debate - that would turn off some more women (remember the NH Dem debate, after which Clinton won?)

The Democratic response has been to hit the "do you really want this person to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency?" theme, emphasizing that McCain is 72. The GOP comeback is to say "if you want a debate on experience, let's have it!" However, the Democratic approach may be backwards - what we need to emphasize, as kos points out, is that the Palin pick takes McCain's "Obama is inexperienced" argument off the table (something also picked up by Ramesh Ponnuru). Bill Burton, Obama's spokesman, appears to be picking this up in his later comments (I get this impression from his appearance on one of the TV shows) after the initial campaign reaction which Obama apparently didn't like. A better argument is made by Paul Begala, who says the pick calls into question McCain's judgment - as someone who has "always put country first," how could McCain have picked someone so unqualified to be VP?

UPDATE: Michael Kinsley (via dkos) does a fine job, saying

The whole "experience" debate is silly...
That's why the important point about Palin's lack of experience isn't about Palin. It's about McCain. And the question is not how his choice of Palin might complicate his ability to use the "experience" issue or whether he will have to drop experience as an issue. It's not about the proper role of experience as an issue. It's not about experience at all. It's about honesty. The question should be whether McCain -- and all the other Republicans who have been going on for months about Obama's dangerous lack of foreign policy experience -- ever meant a word of it. And the answer is apparently not.

[Emphasis added - RS]

While it is true Palin has not been Governor for long (20 months!), the same "experience" argument made against Obama may not hold - people could look at the VP as a President-in-training, the same way Clinton supporters wanted a Clinton-Obama ticket to "season" Obama. And McCain does not need that many Hillary supporters - just enough like Debra Whassername who believe McCain won't overturn Roe v Wade.

Chuck Todd said someone pointed out to him a 20-year-phenomenon - the GOP picks a newbie for the VP, the Dems ridicule it, but the GOP wins. See Nixon/Agnew '68; Bush/Quayle '88. McCain/Palin '08?
There are differences, though, that could be key to ensuring that is not the case:
First, as Obama showed in his acceptance speech (my take later), he is no Dukakis, Gore or Kerry.
Second, Democratic registrations, I believe, are up this year while Republican registrations are down. So to win, Obama needs to first unify Democrats, maybe cut the 25% or so of Clinton supporters who as of now support McCain for whatever reason by half - the Clintons' and Obama's own speeches should go some way toward accomplishing that goal. Also, Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton, as Representative Wasserman-Schulz said in an interview with NBC (via TNR) - Palin is strongly anti-abortion, a creationist, etc. - a traditional, dyed-in-the-wool Conservative. So if Hillary Clinton supporters were really in it for the issues, they should not vote for Palin.
Third, Obama just needs to stay even among independents, and get enough Obamacans - there is always some support bleed across party lines, and this needs to - and likely will - continue. So he should be reasonably Centrist, but not necessarily aggressively so - most people realize that the country is going in the wrong direction, so some leftward swing wouldn't hurt.
Fourth, Obama, from his days as a community organizer and the massive Chicago voter registration drive, puts a lot of emphasis on the ground game - registration and GOTV. With Palin on the opposite ticket, the GOP GOTV could improve - which makes new voter registration crucial.

Though the McCain campaign storyline says the offer to Palin was made on Thursday morning, I have a strong feeling that T-Paw was the pick till right before Obama's speech. After all, Governor Pawlenty abruptly canceled his press interviews on Thursday. However, after Obama's speech - with the "bring it on, bitches!" 'tude - the McCain campaign took a collective dump in their pants, and decided to throw a Hail Sarah.

Coda: Here's where I wrote Sarah Palin could be a future President (based on an NYT article), and here I say she could be a strong adversary as VP.
Coda 2: McCain probably took Palin as VP to provide "education and training" so a woman could be POTUS...
Coda 3: McCain's acceptance speech is scheduled for next Thursday, when the Giants open the NFL regular season against the Redskins. They might just finish in time for the speech... But that means the rest of the day won't be seen by many! I just wish the NFL had scheduled the Monday Vikings @ Packers game on Thursday instead... would have been beautiful!

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