Picking Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential nominee was a clever and gutsy thing for John McCain to do. I think he has just wrong-footed the Democrats on several levels.
First, this choice looks bold and change-making in exactly the way Obama’s choice of Biden did not. Instead of a tired old pol with a history of scandal and gaffe (not to mention the bad hairplugs), McCain chose a fresh-faced frontier girl married to an
Inuit Yup’ik Indian. And one with a history of whistleblowing on corrupt Republicans.
Second, this tells us something about McCain’s relationship to the Republican base: either he figures the more reactionary end of the red-meat Right has no place else to go, or he thinks they don’t actually care what shape a President’s gonads are any more, or the color of the person the President sleeps with.
Third, it puts the PUMAs further in play. The most obvious message here is that McCain wants all those disgruntled Hillary-voting older women out there voting for him. Just going on her tough-babe bio, I think Palin has a pretty good chance of drawing them, too, especially if she’s any good as a stump speaker.
Fourth, McCain just put a helluva spoke in Hillary Clinton’s wheels if she’s got ambitions for 2012. I’ll see your fake working-class-woman persona and raise you with the real deal, he says. There’s no way a Wellesley and Yale Law grad can win an authenticity competition with a woman who shoots moose and pilots her own float plane.
It’s a pass-the-popcorn moment for sure. How many politicians can both play the “diversity” card and brandish a lifetime membership in the NRA? And just to put the cherry on top for Republicans, this move might upstage all the hope-and-change posturing at the DNC.
All in all, a very clever choice — and not in isolation. The McCain campaign is starting to punch seriously just as Obama’s seems to be losing momentum; the choice of Biden was a hard stall, and their attempt to suppress an issues ad tying Obama to terrorist Bill Ayers via lawsuit threats isn’t winning them any friends. Couple these with the dead-heat poll numbers at a moment when on historical patterns Obama ought to have a huge lead, and I see trouble for the Democrats.
I’ve begun to wonder in the last week if the epitaph on Obama’s political grave will read “He peaked too early.” I’m thinking that looks increasingly likely now.
Update: Heh. And there’s already a picture circulating of Palin aiming a a scope-sighted M-4 like she knows how. In Iraq. That’s gonna cause heartburn in all the right places.