Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thoughts on McCain's Choice.


A lot of people have asked me what I thought about John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate. Before I posted something, I wanted to take my time and give it a serious think.

If it had been my call I would have preferred someone with more experience...I probably would have gone with Romney or Thompson. Both would have helped McCain solidify his base and Romney would have helped in Nevada and Colorado (both states have large Mormon minorities). More importantly, they would have reassured voters that there would be someone "Presidential" to take over if, God forbid, something should happen to McCain.

I've always felt that Clinton's choice of Al Gore was inspired. At the time Gore was very highly regarded by almost everyone-his 2000 campaign for President would change that of course. In fact, Gore was generally regarded as the more substantial of the two. The Senator from Tennessee was widely viewed as a future President unlike the obscure Governor of Arkansas. When it came time make a decision about running for President, Gore took a look at President Bush's 91% approval rating and decided to pass. Bill Clinton, who had nothing to loose, decided to roll the dice. The rest is history. Later when it came time to choose a running mate, Clinton chose Gore. When asked why he responded, "because I could die". I'm worried that the Palin pick falls short on this yardstick. That said however, I think it's an inspired choice.

It works so well on so many levels. Here are a few off the top of my head.

1) It totally negates any Democratic Convention bounce in the polls:
Truth be told it was a pretty lacklustre convention. Maybe it was the odd looking stage, maybe it was the shadow of John Edwards hanging over things, maybe it was the lukewarm reception that the selection of Joe Biden as V.P. , maybe it was just a hangover from all that Olympics coverage...and what was the deal with all those shots of female delegates crying at completely inappropriate times....what were they trying to convey with that?

Biden's speech was poor (and occasionally awkward when he tried to get that chant going), Hillary seemed to be praising the nominee through gritted teeth and the best speaker, Bill Clinton was limited to an insulting 10 minutes...lest he steal the show. Obama for what it's worth had a good speech too (though not nearly as good as his keynote address four years ago) and the whole stadium/Greek temple thing worked better than I expected. Just the sort of stuff you'd expect to dominate news coverage for the next several days, giving your candidate all kinds of free media...and then John McCain dropped the bomb. Historically a candidate can expect an 8-10 point bounce in the polls after his convention (and then of course the other side has theirs and cancels it out). We'll have some real numbers on Monday but right now it looks like Obama got no bounce at all. In short the Democrats spent 15 million dollars on a whole lot of nothing.


2) Her lack of experience is actually an advantage:

This works in several ways. First, like Obama, because her record is fairly short she's had relatively little time to make any catastrophic mistakes. More importantly like seeing faces in the clouds, when people don't know much about a candidate they tend to fill in the blanks the way they'd like them to be. Barack Obama, Colin Powell, Mario Cumo, Jack Kemp, and Gary Hart have all benefited from this basic human tendency. Finally, every time the Democrats raise the issue of her lack of experience it allows the Republicans to remind voters how inexperienced Obama is...plus she's actually run a state...and a town...and worked on trade agreements with our largest trading partner (Canada) ...and she has Russia right across the Bering Straight. She actually had to show up and make decisions. On the whole I'd say that's more impressive than voting "present" in the Illinois legislature and the Senate.


3) She's a Woman:

I don't want to make too much of this. On the whole I think race and gender shouldn't matter in this sort of thing...but clearly for some people they do.

After one of the most bruising political campaigns in modern memory, one in which many Clinton supporters feel they were treated unfairly by both the media and the eventual winner, now the Obama people are in the difficult position of having to attack another woman while at the same time trying to make nice with all those disgruntled Hillary voters. That won't be easy. Even before the convention there was a lot of talk about how the media and the Obama folks were a bunch of chauvinist pigs. In Hillary there was a woman who had paid her dues, worked hard, stood by her man...only to be passed over for a less qualified man. I'm not saying I agree with that analysis, but some folks are talking that way...and they're not Republicans. The Democrats need to be very careful about how they attack Palin.

4) She Solidifies the Republican Base:
While McCain and the conservative wing of his party agree on most issues, McCain's public image has largely been defined by issues where he has parted company with the right. You don't get to be a Maverick by towing the party line. During the primaries, most of the opposition to McCain came from social conservatives who backed Romney, Thompson, and Huckabee to various extents. A lot of those people were continuing to talk, long after the primaries were over about how difficult it was going to be to support McCain. Well that's all over now. Palin is one of us. I can't remember the last time I saw conservatives this excited about a candidate. Not only does she talk the talk, she walks the walk. At age 44, after having four kids already, she's told the baby she's carrying has Downs Syndrome. She never considered that child to be anything other than a blessing. Amazingly, I've already seen democrats attack her for this. They argue that either she should have aborted it or she should quit her job and stay home to take care of it...nice...in one sentence you've managed to offend both pro-lifers and feminists. Keep it up dummies.

5) She's smart, tough and attractive:
By all accounts she's been an effective Governor and taken on corrupt entrenched interests in her home state. Almost everyone thinks she's doing a hell of a job. She's pleasant, has a great family story and is easy on the eyes.

Some years ago I was invited attend a Jewish religious ceremony which was the rough equivalent of a christening. This was a Reformed Temple and the Rabbi was a woman...an attractive woman. Halfway through the service I leaned over to The Wife and said something that I'd never thought I'd say, "That Rabbi has great legs!". One can only hope I can soon say the same about our Vice President.

2 comments:

josh said...

Mike,

I was agreeing with you at the start of your blog, but then you went into the Republican talking points. Let's go point by point:

1) Polls already showed a bouce prior to Obama's speech. McCain's strategy to announce Palin following the convention was nothing but brilliant. However Obama will get the bounce, and then McCain will get his.

2) Her lack of experience is an advantage? I love this, but I wish Democrats would hit back on this one. You, like the other Republican talking points, keep bringing up she was a exectutive as Govenor in Alaska. A couple of things about that: a) You know who else had that "executive" experience? Bush...nothing else to discuss; b) Is the Repubican party suggesting then that Palin has more experience, hence more qualified, than Senator (not a Govenor) McCain? If you are going to argue that McCain has military experience, remember he was a commanding officer for a TRAINING squadron. So are all those with "command" under their belt in the military qualified to run the United States? So shouldn't the ticket be Palin/McCain 08?

3) She's a woman...really?!? Only problem is she doesn't stand for anything relating to women. In the two speech's she has given , Palin continues to acknowledge the accomplishments of Ferraro (sp?) and Clinton. Just a few problems with that....SHE IS NOT SINCERE! She does not even come close to representing anything Clinton stands for (health care, education, equal pay, abortion, guns, crime, and there is more I am sure). In fact, in a interview Palin reffered to hillary as a whiner for hillary's supporters percieved unfair treatment by the media during her campaign. So she calls the person she is trying to give kudos to and her supporters whiners? Welcome to politics 101 Govenor. Oh did I mention she believes abortion should not even be allowed in cases of rape or incest...cause I'm sure alot of women feel that way.

4) She solidifies the base. No disagreement.

5) She's smart, tough and attractive. Well lets hope that the Republican party is not so shallow to choose to run someone based on their looks (although many are arguing they ran her bacause she is a woman). As for her being smart, I'm sure she is. Few people run a state without showing some level of intelligence. Is she tough? That's what Republicans want us to believe. She's a reformer right? I won't mention her on going investigation, because people who follow politics cannot truely say she did anything wrong (at least not yet). She did support the bridge to nowhere before being against it. She was closely aligned to Senator Stevens (I know you know about his problems). She also says she is a fiscal conservative and will fight for that in Washington. Yet during her "executive" experience as mayor she caused her little town of 7,000 to incur long term debts of $20 million-almost $3,000 per person. Great fiscal responsibility.

One last observation. It seems as though McCain has changed his campaign of "experience" to one of "change." Only one problem...Obama has been running on that platform for alot longer. In fact, the Republicans made a habit of saying a speech was great to talk about change but experience was what was needed. And if you look at McCain's "experience" of voting on "change," you see exactly what we are in for under a McCain/Palin ticket...MORE OF THE SAME!!!!

Mike Stajduhar said...

Josh,

I invite dissent here but you should understand that when you accuse me of going to "the Republican talking points" you are in essence accusing me of either being some kind of robot awaiting orders from my superiors or a plagiarist. I am neither. It's insulting and I'd never accuse you of such a thing. The thoughts here are my own. I am of course influenced by the people I read, but who isn't.

To your points:
Polls emphatically do NOT show a bounce prior to Obama's speech. Gallup, Rasmussen, and Zogby all show no change outside the margin of error. The Biden announcement had no effect. Neither did the speeches by the Clintons or anything else. Zogby's poll after the Palin announcement shows McCain up by two points. Gallup and Rasmussen use a multi-day tracking method so they won't reflect Obama's speech until at least Tuesday. If you know of some polls that run opposite to this send me a link.

You miss my point entirely. I was suggesting that Palin was more qualified than McCain-I was pointing out that her resume, while thin was essentially comparable to Barack Obama and that as an added bonus she has executive experience.

As for McCain you can knock his leadership experience if you want. I think that's a huge tactical mistake. Most people won't buy it and it invites comparison between Obama and McCain...that's a comparison that Obama is going to lose.

It is an absurd conceit of the left that if you don't agree with the majority of your population sub-group you are somehow inauthentic or a traitor to your group. Let me ask this: The percentage of white men who vote republican is approaching 60%. "Are white males who support democrats suspect?" Of course not, but god help you if you're a pro-life woman or a black who opposes affirmative action. In the minds of liberals those aren't "real" women or blacks.

It is true that a plurality, perhaps a majority of women are pro-choice depending on how you define the issue, but so what. Does that mean that pro-life women aren't...women?

I also thing you're deeply wrong to question the sincerity of her praise for Ferraro and Hillary. It's possible to respect and admire people who you don't agree with. I myself am a fan of Diane Feinstein, Ted Kennedy (though not his personal life), and the late Paul Simon. It's essential to the survival of the republic that we understand that our opponents are not our enemies.

Finally she and Ted Stevens are NOT close as you allege-they hate one another. Sarah Palin is the person who killed "the bridge to nowhere". As to your allegation that she had supported the bridge before she opposed it (who does that phrase remind me of?) I've never heard that before. If it's true I suspect it's fairly innocent (ie. the governors office tentatively signs off on some laundry list of infrastructure projects...then when people point out what a bad idea this particular one is she looked it over and said "yep you're right"). In any case I like your source for this claim. Where did you get this...Democratic talking points? Sorry I couldn't resist.