VP Sarah

I'm feeling a little left out today. Pretty much all my favorite bloggers are positively bubbling over with enthusiasm for Sarah Palin. A few examples: Caveman, CK, Rod, Gazizza, Texas Fred, Feddie, Red Cardigan, Darwin, Steve, Chelsea, and Pauli.

Unfortunately I have a hard time being so excited. Nothing against Sarah Palin; she is clearly a strong, talented woman with an impressive life story. She appears to be solidly pro-life. Furthermore, we should all be grateful McCain didn't go with one of his anti-life pals like Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman. It could have been a lot worse.

Nonetheless, I do not see how having Sarah Palin on the ticket really changes anything of consequence on the issues I care about. The fact of the matter is that John McCain is not really pro-life. He says the right things sometimes, but it is not important to him. The fact that he would even consider putting Lieberman or Ridge a heartbeat away from the Oval Office tells you everything you need to know about McCain's priorities.

Having Sarah Palin as VP will accomplish one thing: we'll have a firmly pro-life president if McCain happens to die in office. Short of that, we (social conservatives) are no better off than we would be with Hillary Clinton.

Ah, some will say, having Palin by his side will give us a voice! She'll make sure he toes the line! Please. John McCain has been in Congress since Sarah Palin was in high school. He has a Washington power base that is both deep and wide. What reason is there to think he will place Palin - whom he met for the first time only six months ago - on top of the list of people who have his ear?

Yes, Palin is a strong woman. She took on the Alaska GOP establishment and is winning so far. Alaska has all of 600,000 people. There is simply no comparison to Washington, where Palin has no power base of her own. Her main influence will come from the fact that she will be in position to run for president herself someday. But unless McCain gives her significant responsibilities and a high public profile, she won't have any more luck than Dan Quayle did in that endeavor.

The reality is that Sarah Palin is on the ticket for one reason: to get John McCain elected. If he wins she will sent to the back burner, having served her primary purpose. She will make speeches to pro-life groups and sit in on Cabinet meetings. I just can't see her becoming especially powerful otherwise. Yes, she's a renegade like McCain. But if she renegades against McCain, she'll be sent to Dick Cheney's "undisclosed location" so fast it will make your head spin.

As a purely political matter, does Palin give McCain better odds? Again, I'm not so sure. She is obviously helping to excite the Republican base. But the fact that we're two months from Election Day and the base needs to be excited is not a good sign. The Democratic base is excited, too. Obama's convention speech got Super-Bowl type TV ratings.

Does Palin help with women? She alluded to this in her speech yesterday, repeating Hillary Clinton's words about cracks in the glass ceiling. The McCain people obviously hope to attract some of the disappointed Hillary supporters. I think they are smoking crack. The kind of women who wanted Hillary to be president or VP will vote for a Republican only on the day hell freezes over. They may stay home and not vote; but they're not going to push the button for John McCain or put a pro-life woman that close to power. Not.Gonna.Happen.

Palin brings one big downside: lack of experience. Yes, yes, she's at least as qualified as Obama. That's not the point. After they re-think their strategy, the Democrats will be smart enough not to bring up the experience issue. And with Palin on the ticket, McCain can't bring it up, either. He has just given up one of his primary offensive weapons. Moving the experience question off the table helps Obama much more than it helps McCain.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I suspect the social conservatives who are now gushing about Palin will start showing some buyer's remorse fairly soon. Let me repeat that I have nothing against Palin. I think she's a fine person with a promising future. She ought to complete her term as governor and run for president herself someday... and that's probably what will happen.

2008 is not a Republican year, and McCain's chances are not good no matter who he had picked. This election is all about a few swing voters in a few swing states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, and maybe a few more. If the Democrats are able to frame the campaign around economic issues - and they're off to a good start so far - Obama will win. I saw nothing this week to change that calculus.


Pauli said...

The kind of women who wanted Hillary to be president or VP will vote for a Republican only on the day hell freezes over.

Patrick, I partially agree with you. Women showing up at Hillary's rallies, die-hard pro-choicers, ground troops going door-to-door, etc. -- it's hard to imagine many of them warming up to a Pro-life Christian supermom like Gov. Palin. But Hillary would have gotten a lot of women who Reagan would have referred to as the "great unwashed" -- i.e., working single moms who don't have a strong ideological bent either way.

A lot of these folks, commonly termed "independents", don't even know who they'll vote for until they get into the booth. I think it's hard for folks like you and I to "get inside the heads" of these folks because we're die-hard papist pro-lifers and supporters of traditional values, etc. We pay attention to positions on every issue and read more in one day than many of these folks do in a month.

But nevertheless these people comprise a major part of the electorate, and that is why people are applauding Mac's strategy as well as the person of Sarah Palin herself.

Patrick said...

True enough. I think the question is whether Palin will be attractive enough to those people to overcome the class-warfare rhetoric ObamaBiden will be unloading the next two months. I'm dubious, and the economy isn't helping.

But who knows - Obama could easily put his foot in his mouth. This one may go down to the wire.

Chelsea said...

I am in full agreement that this pick does not change the concerns about John McCain, as I noted on my post. But, looking toward the future, I am thankful that the person who has the best chance of being the next Republican presidential nominee should McCain win this year is Sarah Palin and not someone like Mitt Romney or Tom Ridge.

Patrick said...

Hi Chelsea. You're right - win or lose this time, Palin will probably be a candidate it 2012 or 2016. Imagine her vs. Hillary. That will be fun to watch.