John McCain has picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. This selection is bold and brilliant, as is the way the McCain campaign has used it to blast Obama’s convention speech off front pages and airwaves.
Democrats will argue that the Palin selection torpedoes McCain’s argument that his ticket is the “experience” ticket. But they should tread carefully here. Palin, though young, has a more substantial resume than Barack Obama. In fact, she can actually claim more executive experience than anyone on either ticket, since she’s the only candidate with experience running a state. If the Obama campaigns tries to highlight Palin’s inexperience, they might only end up highlighting Obama’s.
“America’s Hottest Governor” is known for tackling corruption in her home state, where she has shelved pork barrel projects, denounced earmarks, and introduced a widely-praised ethics bill. She is only 44, and her good looks and relative youth do risk weakening McCain’s hold on the “I’m the serious, non-celebrity candidate” argument. McCain also risks having Palin’s youth contrast with and highlight his advanced age.
On the plus side, however, the selection will give McCain a huge boost in media attention and sex appeal, and take some wind out of the sails of the Obama “change” campaign. Picking Palin also allows McCain to gain ground on his anti-spending and anti-corruption themes. Most importantly, Palin will help McCain win over women and right-wing conservatives. Some of the former were embittered by Obama’s perceived shunning of Hillary Clinton, and some of the latter have never forgiven McCain for his opposition to drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (which Palin supports).
McCain was also smart to not pick Romney or Pawlenty, who would have created a “boring old white dude” ticket. McCain needed a pick that would grab attention and reinforce his credentials as a “maverick,” and, with Palin, he has hit this ball out of the park.