Saturday, August 30, 2008

WIld Card, to say the least.

In the wake of her improbable selection to be John McCain's running mate, just about everyone now knows the name Sarah Palin. Yes, she’s inexperienced (under two years as governor of a state that literally has a smaller population than Columbus, Ohio). Yes, she has a relatively modest educational background for a VP candidate (BA in journalism from University of Idaho). And oh yea, she earned the nickname “Barracuda” for her tenacious play on the high school basketball court (Thanks Fox News for that tidbit). Is she one of the most qualified people in the Republican party to be VP? Absolutely not. By all accounts, this a straight political move on McCain's part in an attempt to win over some former Hillary supporters.

Why would McCain pick Palin in particular? For starters she's young, energetic, reform-minded, and has an approval rating of 80% in Alaska. As a mother of five who is married to her high school sweetheart, she very much embodies classic Middle American values that should play well in many key swing states. Ideologically, she will help sheer up McCain’s conservative base. She supports teaching creationism in schools, gun rights, staunchly favors domestic oil and gas exploration, and is pro-life.

Though this pick might be a hit with conservatives, it’s not a choice that's going to go over real well with the independents that McCain has been courting. McCain has criticized Obama for putting his own political interest over the interest of the country by asserting “Obama would rather lose a war in order to win an election campaign”. Now McCain has picked Palin, for reasons of political expediency, over several other potential running mates significantly more qualified to take the helm as President if necessary. Also, McCain's argument that Obama is unelectable because of his lack of experience now loses practically all its effectiveness.

The real question is whether Palin can reach across party lines and draw enough women into the McCain camp. If she can do so while also satisfying the conservative base, then obviously this could go down as shrewd political move. I have my doubts, but the Republicans have demonstrated a tremendous sense of political instinct over the last two presidential elections. Time will tell.

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