Friday, August 29, 2008


A friend just asked for my thoughts on the pick and I share them here with you.

My initial thoughts:

- It undermines the "lack of experience" message that he has been pushing.

- He just blew his momentum. I thought he would go for the safer pick in Romney, and thought he should.

My thoughts a couple hours later:

- She brings new attention to the "drill here, drill now" message. That is a winning message for McCain I think, and a point of disagreement between the two parties. He needs a few clear points of disagreement after the Reaganesque speech we heard from Obama last night that tried to co-opt a lot of the traditional conservative message. Alaska is home to oil reserves, and Alaskans favor drilling. She can give cover to McCain to change his mind about ANWR.

- She is clearly pro-life, in a dramatic way. GOP can assail Obama on his radical pro-death positions.

- She's a mom. She is married and presumably in a good faithful marriage. She has 5 kids AND a demanding high profile job. She has something for everybody.

- She is a fine looking woman. She is going to generate interest just because men like to look at attractive women. (And so do women.)

- She supports and emphasizes McCain's no-pork message which has been getting lost so far. That message appeals to libertarian types. Esp. after Obama's "policy speech" last night where he promised a chicken in every pot and subsidized fuel to cook it.

- It draws attention to the fact the Dems are all talk and no action. Actually nominating a woman within an inch of the presidency is historic and bold. Although it is somewhat maddening as an American citizen, I do sort of like about Bush that he is all action, no talk. There is something macho and cowboy and quintessentially American about that. Don't know if I'd call it representative government in action but it has shades of nobility and of American individualism. Anyway, my point was that the GOP just did what the Dems did not do. (We assume for this point that Hillary is a woman.)

- He needs headlines because he himself is so dang boring. This definitely helps him in that area, that of making news and staying relevant and getting the attention off of O. Esp. after the wild Obamarama last night in Denver, he needed to do something splashy to mitigate O's bump.

- We elect based in large part on resonance and likeability. Our choices as consumers (of candidates and otherwise) are largely emotional. I don't know Gov. Palin at all but her bio suggests that she brings likeability which is important.

- It builds on McCain's major brand (maverickness) and shores up his major weakness (moderateness).

- Also I note that his team demonstrated a very impressive ability to keep a secret, which I like in a president. (And it makes me uneasy, but for our purposes here, let's leave it at I like it.)

Rethinking my initial thoughts:

- She does lack experience. But she has experiences that real Americans can relate to, which is worth something. And you can still credibly say that Obama lacks experience at the top of the ticket which is much more significant than lacking experience at the bottom of the ticket. And you can say that the voters of Alaska are satisfied with her executive performance, to the tune of an 80+ percent approval rating.

- McCain didn't really have positive momentum as much as Obama had negative momentum. The gap was closing not because of McCain's strength but Obama's many and real weaknesses. This creates an opportunity for McCain to actually create some positive momentum heading into the convention. It will also get some people to watch the convention who otherwise wouldn't, esp. after the snoozer convention we just sat through this week. She's an unknown, so people will be curious to gawk at her and meet her. Romney not so much.

So overall I started cold and am warming to the pick.


Dude said...

I'd never heard of this woman so I consulted the wiki on her. She seems like a fantastic governor of Alaska but I'm not yet convinced she was a good choice for the ticket.

First off, after months of talking down Obama for not being ready to lead, the oldest candidate in history has chosen an unknown hockey mom to fill in for him when his age and injuries finally catch up to him, which may not happen within four years but is more likely than with any other candidate in history.

Second, I'd like to believe the GOP is above taking superficial candidates (young conservative female) as opposed to picking the best person for the job (and the presumptive next job). He needs to sell his experience, not balance it.

If this pick is some attempt to court the disenfranchised Hillary voters then it's not going to work. Hillary and Palin are on opposite ends of the political spectrum and it insults women's intelligence and political acumen to assume they will vote for a far right woman when their pet far left candidate is not available.

Obama is such a great orator that he just might be able to sell the people on the social state he envisions. McCain is the more pragmatic strategist but he is a god-awful speaker and Palin does not fill that gap. If you fuzz up the actual content and just listen to the voice, it is clearly Obama then Biden before either of the GOP candidates. The Democratic ticket stirs the emotion in people whereas the Republican ticket makes me want them to stop talking and just do the things.

Lastly, the centrist McCain won the party's nomination. He could very well sell that as a mandate to pull the party away from the Christian right, who are going to vote Republican regardless of his running mate. By choosing an anti-abortion pro-creationalist as his running mate and potential successor, he does no favors for the silent majority in the party who do not want our country run by religious fundamentalists.

Weighing the pros and cons of choosing conservative Tina Fey as the running mate, my initial reaction is that it was an extremely poor choice that may cost him the general election.

Sir Saunders said...

Great Blog E., Obviously Dude has defected to the Soviets and is in need of liberation. I suggest a long weekend in Las Vegas. I think she is a genius choice. Go read Tom's "Identity Politics" blog again and this really does create a bold move because it precisely does what the Dem's cant' Further, it rally's the base while picking off moderate Hillary supporters. In a race as close as presidential races have become, I think it was a bold and smart move on McCains' part. He hasn't had a misstep in 6 weeks. Genius!

I was coming to blog on this pick, but yours is so eloquent I have nothing to top it. Fantastic!

Tom said...

Bravo, E. That was a ton of thoughtful points off the top of your head.

I think it was a bold political pick. She’s a sharp lady and it could be positive in a number of ways. McCain won’t get the kind of person who already voted for Hilary in the primary, but the swing voter that may have gone for her in the general election. If either candidate pulls in 2/3 of swing voting females, they probably win the election.

Research from the 2004 election showed that 47% of Democrats believe in creationism and 28% more think that evolution was guided by God. I don’t think that puts her outside the mainstream of America as a whole. How many contentious positions does Obama have that are supported by 47% of Republicans? And as long as Democrats cling to late-term abortions, I think the majority of the country is with Republicans on that too.

I watched Fox for 2 hours tonight and then 2 hours of CNN. CNN kept running this video of her shooting an automatic weapon and there was nothing tentative about it. She isn’t the kind of NRA member who sees it merely as good politics. She’s a real frontier woman. Obama and Biden risk appearing weaker on terrorism than the second runner up for Miss Alaska.

Another point on Alaska is that Democrats romanticize the wilderness and use the imagery as the basis for enacting overreaching environmental laws. How many Democrats do you know that actually want to live there? They seem to spend an awful lot of time trying to preserve places they want to avoid. Palin lives in the wilderness and the real life experience of that removes any romantic notions of what it’s really like. It’s a place you have to fight and she is tough enough to do so. I don’t think Biden or Obama would like to have a survivalist contest with her.

For McCain it might simply be strategy, but from what I’ve seen she could be a real fresh voice in national conservative thought. She turned down the federal money to build the Bridge to Nowhere, how many Governors are capable of that? Her son is on his way to Iraq, and thus the chicken hawk talk ceases.

Trish called me after she heard the speech and she was more excited than I have ever seen her for any candidate. She told me the night before that McCain would be making a big mistake choosing anyone but Romney. Her co-workers were jazzed about it too. One was on the phone all day talking to friends about it. Another lady who doesn’t really follow politics said she was voting for McCain. Dan told me that they were watching intently in the company cafeteria and there was an air of electricity and excitement. All of that surprised me until I came home and read the stories and saw her talk.

What was Hilary Clinton except the wife or a President who used that capital to get a senate seat? 8 years later she has this reputation as candidate of meritocracy. Obama shouldn’t be anywhere near the nomination with his experience, right? But the 24 hour news cycle ages the modern politician much more. We probably know more about Obama than people knew about Roosevelt when they voted for him. We’ll know more about Palin before the election than people knew about Truman in 1932.

The greatest thing that can happen for McCain is to have the media and the Obama campaign criticizing her experience. It only reminds voters that Obama has little.

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