I’m a little late to the party on this one, but after giving some thought to it, I’m coming around to the view that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin may very well be John McCain’s best choice as a vice-presidential candidate. And by best choice I don’t necessarily mean my top choice, but the best pick from a purely political perspective.
As a pro-lifer, NRA member, and fiscal conservative, she’d be acceptable to the right, and her record on ethics reform and maverick image makes her a nice fit for McCain. She’s charming, likeable, and telegenic, commands stratospheric approval ratings, and could help McCain among independents. Palin, 44, could also provide a welcome contrast to McCain’s sometimes grumpy demeanor. One of the biggest problems that McCain is going to face in the election is an excitement gap, and I don’t see how picking a boring white male to join the ticket is going to help him on that front, but an attractive woman from Alaska who eats moose burgers and rides snowmobiles, just might. There are clearly a lot of female voters who believe it’s time to see a woman in the White House, and if McCain is really serious about targeting disaffected Hillary voters, Palin would be a strong asset.
Also, I could see her helping on the national security issue. Beyond the Iraq War, I think one of the reasons Republicans are having more trouble appealing to voters on national security grounds is that tough rhetoric often comes across as testosterone-driven, locker room, chest pounding. But as a mother of five with her eldest son in the Army, Palin could really make the case to other security moms as to why McCain is the best candidate to protect their families. I was watching this Charlie Rose interview with her, and (around the 10 minute mark), she talks about her son joining the Army, and says, “This kid is doing all that he can within his power to help secure and defend the United States, every elected official had better be asking themselves, are you doing as much also? Are you doing all that you can?”
I have my reservations about Palin. With only about a year and a half as governor, I’m concerned about a lack of seasoning. In some sense this is less of a problem given McCain’s experience, but potentially more of a problem given his age. I’m also worried about how well versed she is in national and international issues, and how she would perform under the kind of media attention she’s never encountered before. Her answers to a lot of questions come off as vague and general, and I’m not sure whether that would cut it over the course of a long election. But all of the potential picks have pluses and minuses, and it seems to me that based on pure political calculations, Palin could be the strongest choice for McCain.
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