The Huffington Post is full of fulminations like this one against Sarah Palin, the presumptive Republican Vice Presidential nominee. It’s hard not to sympathise – McCain risks looking cynical, and Palin’s positions are very easily painted as radical and apalling.
But if Obama was clever last night, today McCain showed an equal smarts. Not only does picking a darkhorse candidate the day after the Democratic convention obliterate the media coverage of Obama’s big night (whilst McCain’s ad yesterday short-circuits any accusations of gracelessness); Palin potentially opens up a whole raft of voters to the Republican campaign, despite what liberals might think. She’s a risk in the sense she’s untried – most obviously, she may not look presidential enough next to Joe Biden, a dangerous flaw when the guy at the top of your ticket is 72, and her lack of profile risks her seeming like a gimmic – and she’s a risk because of her estranged brother-in-law and senior senator. (Those last two in particular could get ugly.) But she’s a game changer.
She’s a baptized Catholic. She’s a woman, and a mother. She’s worked properly for a living, and her husband still does. She hunts, shoots and fishes. Those things bring into play more than just a few disaffected Clinton-voting feminists. The campaign can play her to whom they want. I can name a bunch of her policies which are objectionable to mainstream American opinion, but recall Dew Westen – no one cares about policy debates. Besides, the Republican base goes crazy for her (as they don’t for McCain). She badly needs a great performance at next week’s convention (and indeed throughout the campaign) in order to keep doubts at bay … but this is the McCain campaign hitting it out of the park tactically, and opening up a bunch of opportunities at the strategic level. Kudos.
If you think I’m wrong, watch this video and fail to be impressed and/or concerned, depending on your political allegiance. Palin starts to speak about 11 minutes in.
I promise to write about something other than politics soon.