I'll say this for John McCain -- he's got cojones. I had tagged Sarah Palin as a possibility back in July but to be honest I didn't really think she had much of a chance. The reason she remained in the running was that all the commonly discussed possibilities had obvious liabilities. In the end, I assumed it would be Mitt Romney, T-Paw or Joe Lieberman. While there are clear risks with picking Governor Palin, the upside is really good. Here are a few reasons:
- She's a fresh face and a reformer. Whether you think it fair or not, the Democrats have been beating the drums for the entirety of W's second term about scandal and secrecy and whatnot. If you want a pretty good example of the laundry list of calumnies, you could look at last week's Sunday Doonesbury cartoon. And because the Bush administration has never effectively responded to these calumnies, they are now seen as fact. That presented McCain with a challenge, since one of the main pillars of the Obama strategy is to present McCain as More Of The Same. McCain needed an outsider with reformer credentials. Sarah Palin certainly has those. If you don't believe me, ask the Murkowskis.
- Would Sarah Palin be a Vice President in the mold of Dick Cheney? Not a chance. If you really want to get Rovian, the Republicans could even argue that Biden is more likely to be a Cheneyesque VP, given the lack of foreign policy chops that his prospective boss has. Since Palin won't be that sort of Veep, it also blows yet another gaping hole in the Third Bush Term meme.
- This bold pick casts Obama's pick of Biden in bold relief. Joe Biden has never impressed me much, but he was a reasonably safe pick for Obama. But if you are the man who is going to bring Hope and Change to evil Washington, you probably shouldn't be picking a guy who first entered the Senate when you were 11 years old. Biden has plenty of foibles - his ripoff of Neil Kinnock, his braggadocio regarding his academic record, his notorious long-windedness - and for all the years he's spent in the Senate, he really doesn't have that great a record of legislative accomplishment. He simply doesn't have the star power that Obama could have sought. After the show the Clintons put on in Denver, I'm guessing that more than a few portsiders have some buyer's remorse about having ol' Joe riding shotgun.
- It limits Obama and Biden's options. A more traditional Veep pick (like Mitt, T-Paw or Tom Ridge) would have been pretty easy work for Obama's operatives. Mitt in particular would have set up a great class envy thing that the Democrats would have exploited the heck out of. Palin isn't a rich woman and she and her husband have had to earn pretty much everything they have. And let's face it, Obama will have to tread very lightly with Palin, given the amount of ill will that his campaign faced when they took down St. Hillary. It won't matter to the hard-core feminists, because they won't vote for Palin anyway. It's the suburban women swing voters, who can relate to the life Sarah Palin has led, who will take umbrage if they go low on Governor Palin.
- Go right ahead, rip Palin for being inexperienced and unqualified. Every time the Democrats attempt this one, it will point right back at their inexperienced candidate. And the obvious response is this: Sarah Palin is running for Vice President. Barack Obama is running for President. Let's see where that one goes.
- Go right ahead, rip Palin for being a hick. I've seen the "she was the mayor of a town of 9,000 less than 2 years ago" meme at least a half-dozen times already. Let's be honest - that's preaching to the choir. The dazzling urbanites who enjoy sneering at the residents of Bugtussle were already going to vote for Obama anyway. The thing is, Obama needs the votes of people who live in exurban towns like Wasilla, Alaska. That sneering stuff might play in Portland or Philly or South Minneapolis; I suspect it won't play so well in McMinnville or Shamokin or Waseca.
- About those soccer moms.... I don't know if Palin will attract that demographic or not. She's a lot more likely to help there than Mitt Romney or T-Paw would have, though.
- Ace of Base. McCain's biggest problem thus far has been the notable lack of enthusiasm among the groups that have made up the Republican base for the last 30 years. Palin is an exemplar of pro-life, life NRA member and has even hunted moose. James Dobson hates McCain and even he's thrilled with the pick.
- Sam's Club Republicans. This was T-Paw's meme, but Sarah Palin is well-equipped to exploit it. The notion here is that there are a lot of people who aren't that wealthy and who are looking for people who exhibit common sense, who understand their concerns, and who are skeptical of the blandishments of government. A plain-speaking working mother of five is more likely to reach these folks than two Senators, especially one who must continue to face the words he uttered about people bitterly clinging to guns and religion earlier this year.
- You thought Hillary was angry before? If McCain wins, it's Sarah Palin who makes history, not Hillary Clinton. And it could be Vice President Sarah Palin that Hillary would have to deal with for her grudge match in 2012. With this move, McCain cut Hillary off at the knees, too.
What say you?
Cross-posted at True North