McCain's choice of Sarah Palin (assuming it's confirmed) is a brilliant first counter-stroke. She helps the ticket on so many different fronts: she gives women who are angry about Hillary being passed over another reason to vote McCain; she gives fence-sitting whites who feel they "ought" to vote for Obama because of the historic nature of his candidacy an excuse to find history on the other side; she burnishes McCain's credentials as an independent, reform candidate; she restores McCain's credibility on energy and environmental issues, where Obama personally feels most comfortable going on the attack; she will generate enthusiasm among evangelicals among whom Obama was hoping to make inroads; she absolutely locks down the gun-rights vote (where McCain needed to play a bit of defense against Barr); she helps McCain in the Mountain West (Colorado and Montana) where he cannot afford to lose any states (except New Mexico); she neutralizes Biden in the debates (if he comes out zinging, he'll seem ungentlemanly); and, most important, she makes McCain seem bold, future-oriented, and in control of his Administration, where Obama has seemed timid, defensive and unable to control his own party.
The upside: She's the best of the dark horses because she's an exciting, exotic (yet heartlandish) female pick.
The base will love her. She's a true outsider and the only person in the race with serious executive experience. This will have to mean McCain's flipping on ANWR, which will make gas prices a central issue.
Downside: She may not be ready for primetime. The heartbeat-from-the-presidency issue is a real one.
Palin, in hindsight, looks like an obvious pick for McCain. Not only is she one of the most popular public figures in the countryher approval rating, according to the Anchorage Daily News, tops 80 percentPalin came to office running a clean government campaign and has fought for ethics reform. Among other things, she supports drilling in Alaska, with limits, she's pro-life and she's a fiscal conservative. And she’s a ladysomething that, if she’s the pick, surely figured into the McCain strategy of hoping to woo upset Hillary Clinton supporters. Plus, Palin's an interesting character: a former beauty queen, she was a star high school basketball player (she was known as “Sarah Barracuda” for her intense play). Palin married her childhood sweetheart, a blue collar oil field worker (who is on leave, so as not to create a conflict of interest). She hunts, she fishes, and earlier this year, she posed for Vogue.
It's a daring pick but I think a very weak pick. I'm perfectly happy with it. Palin is in the midst of a reasonably serious scandal in her home state. Her brother-in-law is a state trooper who is in the midst of an ugly custody battle with her sister. And she's accused of getting the state police to fire him. Recently she was forced to admit that one of her aides had done this, though she insists she didn't know.
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