Friday, September 5, 2008

McCain's bold pick

It's becoming very clear that by the end of the Democratic convention the McCain campaign decided that they could definitely not win the election on experience. The desire for change is too great. To win McCain needed to reclaim his maverick reputation, but could not do so by picking his preferred VP, Joe Lieberman, since that would enrage the Republican base, particularly on the issue of abortion (Lieberman is pro-choice).

As a result of this we will see much more talk of McCain the fighter, McCain the reformer and McCain the maverick. Without being a complete U-turn this emphasis should go a long way towards restoring his standing with independents, and Palin fits this picture almost perfectly.

But the Palin pick is brilliant because by choosing such a socially conservative reforming Republican as VP McCain has totally restored his connection to the base of the party while reinforcing his appeal to independents. The people who do all the hard work in the Republican campaign (many are conservative evangelicals) appear to have fallen head over heels in love with Palin. This guarantees a good Republican turn-out and an enthusiastically run campaign, something that the McCain campaign has conspicuously lacked so far. This appeal results from Palin's red-state just folks hockey-mum image and her evangelical Christian faith. The politics of abortion and the fact that Trig Palin has Downs syndrome are very far from being irrelevant here. (On the focus on Trig during the telecast of the speech see here.) Also relevant has been the strong tinge of elitism in the media reaction to Palin's background and qualifications. This allows her to portray her self as wronged by the liberal media. It helps that Palin is such a good speaker. She is a superstar already, 37.2 million people watched her speech, nearly as many as watched Obama.

It's remarkable that the one national issue on which she is well informed, drilling for oil, is one of McCain's best issues with the electorate. (Ironically she appears to favour windfall profit taxes for oil companies, like Obama.)

Finally of course there is the chance that disgruntled Hilary voters in the backblocks of states like Pennsylvania will want to see a woman in the executive rather than Obama.

When you look at it, it's really remarkable that there is anyone out there that could solve so many of the terrible problems the McCain campaign has been having.

On the other hand she will also be like a red rag to a bull for the Democratic base. Apparently Obama's campaign apparently made 8 million dollars in the 24 hours after Palin's speech.

The risk of bringing someone straight from a state of 600,000 into national presidential campaign remains breathtakingly high and could still backfire. It helps though that the overheated reaction to her nomination means that Palin will hardly ever have to do an interview or a press conference and will not need to have a good relationship with the press.

Whatever happens from here Palin's nomination and speech could well be as important to the Republican party as Obama's was to the Democrats in 2004. She will be a major feature of US politics for some time to come.

This campaign just got really interesting again.

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