Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Who is that old guy next to Sarah Palin?

As the third day of the Republican Convention gets underway it's hard to hear much news about anything but McCain's VP pick Sarah Palin, Alaska's conservative reformist Governor who will speak tonight in Minneapolis - a speech that may attract as much attention as Barack Obama's rockstar-like show in Denver last week.

I'm starting to understand the simple and risky strategy behind McCain's very unusual choice of Palin, and I think it will prove to be a blunder of near Presidential proportions, but this remains to be seen.

One part of the strategy that has worked magnificently is how quickly Palin's VP nod has focused attention away from Obama and the Democratic Convention but Palin was also one of the very few (she may be the only) national polical figures who fit the following bill:

* Conservative. (esp. on pro life, pro guns, pro big military, anti social spending) McCain's lackluster support among many conservatives has been a major thorn in his side. Palin is *more* conservative than most of his conservative critics, and they clearly love this choice and will fight harder for this ticket than become disaffected by a McCain / Lieberman ticket which would have much better suited McCain's personal and political sensibilities.

* Female. McCain felt a woman on the ticket would help keep at least some disaffected Clinton supporters off balance and undecided. Despite the handful of Clinton-turned-Palin women FOX news will parade as an example of this strategy working, it's very unlikely that many of the core Clinton supporters will change party and ideological allegiance so dramatically. How many women will put gender above almost every other key Democratic issue? Very few.

* Young and attractive. McCain, more than anybody, is feeling the pain of going up against a rock star candidate. Palin's personal appeal helps shore up that front.

* Fighter. This last factor may be the single most important in the equation, and it is the one that helps make sense of what many see as a very strange McCain decision. McCain's personal style matches Palin's in several ways, and he sees Palin's unique situation with respect to her own baby Trig and her daughter's teen pregnancy as positive and provocative talking points in their fight for the presidency. Where some would say the Palin children challenges reflect some hypocrisy, McCain Palin will argue that the problems are not caused by teen pregnancy so much as missing dads and unsupportive families, and that right to life issues trump any potential disabilies - even the severe ones faced by Palin's baby son.

My view on this last factor is that it will probably backfire because it will be impossible for Palin to bring these talking points up without sounding like she is exploiting her family challenges for political gain. Only if she is directly challenged can she react dramatically and combatively and retain the sympathy of middle of the road Americans, and you won't see this type of direct attack. Democrats don't need to bring these issues up at all anyway. The media, always hungry for red meat analysis and conflict, will continue to report on them while Palin will struggle to find ways to counter those stories effectively since they won't be coming from a clear enemy.

End game? Palin gives Obama about 5-10 point advantage he would not have had if McCain had continued to focus on the "experience" issue and brought on an experienced VP.

1 comment:

Rob Spooner said...

Probably one hundred thousand women would fit the bill and be similarly unqualified to be president, which is the essential job qualification of the vice-president. In addition, they might not:

1) Be a walking, talking argument for proper sex education in schools,
2) Be an affront to science,
3) Have shown a complete inability to separate the power of an office from the power to pursue family agendas.

McCain/Palin is likely to carry Appalachia and the Ozarks handily, assuming those folks vote, but where does new support come from? Her hunting habits won't carry the West Coast, or in fact gain the ticket anything anywhere they weren't already destined to win. On the East Coast, she will look like a frontier hick.