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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Breaking Down the Sarah Palin Pick

Last May, I assessed Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as one of John McCain's top ten VP possibilities. Here's what I had to say about her potential to round out the Republican ticket:

Working under the assumption that Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, there is undoubtedly going to be a lot of disappointed female voters who are up for grabs across the country. Sarah Palin would be an excellent olive branch to a gender that consistently leans Democratic. She not only brings executive experience to balance McCain's legislative work, but she might be the most popular executive in the country. Indeed, in a poll taken in 2007, she had an astounding approval rating of 84% with only 5% disapproval. Other strengths include her strong pro-life stance and she's voiced an opinion against gay marriage, two core conservative tenants that will be welcome to Republicans who are skeptical of a McCain nomination.

Of course, there are nine people ranked higher on this list for a reason. First, the 44-year-old was elected governor in 2006, and with less than a year-and-a-half of statewide experience, she could be considered too green for the ticket (even if the average age of her and McCain is a perfect 58). Second, she has very little name recognition across the country, and even though that isn't her fault, it is something McCain and the Republican brain trust could be concerned with when selecting the #2. Finally, she brings nothing to the table geographically, as Alaska's three electoral votes consistently go red, and the state will not attract any region of the country, unless the Yukon Territory is somehow annexed and incorporated by November.


Three months later, most of that analysis holds and has become relevant. Yesterday, John McCain and the GOP selected Sarah Palin to be the Republican nominee for Vice-President of the United States.


Re-read the first paragraph from my May posting to understand some reasons why Palin could be considered a strong choice. She's a social conservative (better than Lieberman), she's a fiscal conservative (better than Huckabee), she's pro-life (better than Ridge), and she's Presbyterian (better than Romney). She is the perfect Republican. Moreover, she's a woman, while McCain's rival is coming off a primary where many thought the Obama campaign and/or the media was unfair to a woman because of her gender. Potentially, there are a lot of disenfranchised Hillary Clinton supporters out there to be won. Unlikely, as I'll discuss in the near future, but potentially.

The biggest mark against her, obviously, is her lack of experience. Many say that, since McCain is 72-years-old, he has an above average likelihood to die in office. Therefore, the person who is one heartbeat away from the presidency has rarely been more paramount. This is not an inaccurate assessment. However, that is of little concern to McCain and the Republicans. Not only does McCain have loads of experience, but the Democrats would not be wise to attack Palin's lack of it.

Never forget that the primary objective of both parties is not to put the country first, but rather to either gain or hold onto power first, then push through an agenda second, after the candidate(s) has been elected. The choice of Palin is no different, like numerous vice-presidential choices of both parties over the years. McCain and the GOP want to win the election. If the Democrats try to attack the Palin selection on the basis of her youth and inexperience, the McCain campaign can easily remind the electorate that Obama is nearly as youthful and inexperienced as Palin.

Simply, despite the Palin pick, the Democrats cannot make this a campaign about experience. McCain has over two decades on Obama and it goes without saying that the top of the ticket is a lot more important than the bottom. If the Democrats criticize Palin because, if McCain wins, she could possibly have to take over, the Republicans can hit back by saying that, if the Democrats win, Obama is definitely taking over.

Therefore, both parties will wait on the inexperience issue. If McCain brings up Obama's inexperience, Obama will cite Palin as being one heartbeat away and therefore a terrible choice for VP, while his own VP is as well equipped as any politician to run the country. If Obama brings up Palin's experience, McCain will blow him out of the water.

Ultimately, since it appears Palin will be attack-proof in this regard, she's actually a strong choice. A down-the-line conservative with executive experience who might siphon female votes away from the Democratic Party.


Addendum: To my loyal readers: my work has blocked blogspot. That is why you didn't see of my usual morning posts this past week. I'm looking into circumventing the system, but if no solution is found, I might be going to weekly posts.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Previewing a Busy Week in Presidential Politics

Ten weeks out.
Democrats fresh off a VP pick.
Republicans less than a week from theirs.
Democratic Convention for four days.
GOP Convention build up.

It's starting to get pretty real.

Dems' VP Update: It's Joe Biden. Early stories about the Biden selection will revolve around two factors, both of which I addressed on Saturday, and both negative for the party. The first, which has already occurred, is the reminder that Biden had some now infamous choice words about an Obama Administration being inexperienced and unready. These comments will eventually disappear into the static noise of Campaign '08.

Secondly, and this will happen soon, the choice will be spun by Republicans as an example of Obama not feeling ready for the task and running away from his "outsider" approach to his primary campaign. "See? He's not ready. He needs Biden. And whatever happened to 'change', anyway?"

This, too, will dissipate. What the Democrats are, and should be, most concerned about is not the short- and intermediate-term effect, but the long-term effect. How will people feel about Biden on November 4? Literally. November 4th. Not the week before, not the day before. What will the undecided voter, the one who likes what Barack Obama has to say but thinks we might just be a bit safer with McCain in office, think about when they're in line to vote?

The undecided voter will be comforted that the experience of Joe Biden is on the Democratic ticket. That's why Obama & Co. took Biden and that will be the ultimate story on the Dems' VP pick in 2008.

GOP VP Update: It's Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney, which, remarkably, I've consistently said since February. More on the GOP VP race as the week progresses.

Democratic Convention update: Today's Democratic Convention schedule (from Demconvention.com):

Barack Obama’s story is an American story that reflects a life of struggle, opportunity and responsibility like those faced by Americans everyday. The opening night of the Convention will highlight Barack’s life story, his commitment to change, and the voices of Americans who are calling for a new direction for this country.

Monday’s headline prime-time speaker will be Michelle Obama.
Other Monday night speakers include: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Barack Obama’s sister Maya Soetero-Ng and Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama’s older brother; Jerry Kellman, mentor and long-time friend of Barack Obama; Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr.; former Indiana Representative Lee Hamilton; Tom Balanoff, President of Illinois SEIU; Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America; NEA President Reg Weaver; AFT President Randi Weingarten; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; State Comptroller Dan Hynes; Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulis; Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle; and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.
Monday night will also feature a tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Republican Convention update: Too soon to say too much, but a recent interesting story about the GOP Convention is that former Democrat Joe Lieberman will be speaking at the Republican Convention on its opening night (a week from today). Does this mean Lieberman is being considered, as many speculate, for McCain's #2 position? Don't count on it. Imagine Lieberman in the VP debate, going against the Republicans (and agreeing with Biden!) on nearly every social, financial, and domestic issue?

McCain has worked too hard to win conservatives over the last few months. He finally caught Obama with near virtual ties in most polls. Is he really going to roll the dice and pick a social liberal as his VP? Not a chance. Both parties can relax. Joe Lieberman will never be on a national ballot ever again.

Now if only, Connecticut Democrats wish, he would stay off the Connecticut ballot...

Check back for updates on these four developments tomorrow and throughout the week!
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