Pullin’ for Palin

In early June Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Jack Kelly commended Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate in this column. The column is particularly interesting in retrospect. Today Kelly himself takes a look back. Far from patting himself on the back, Kelly now measures the potential risk and reward in Palin’s selection:

There is no such thing as the perfect candidate. The knock on Sarah Palin would be her relative inexperience. She’s only been governor for 18 months, and before that, the mayor of Wasilla, a small suburb of Anchorage.

But it will be difficult for Democrats to attack Ms. Palin on this without calling attention to Barack Obama’s lack of experience. Ms. Palin is the undercard, not the top of the ticket. And her 18 months as governor (not to mention her two terms as mayor) is 18 months more executive experience than Mr. Obama and Sen. Joe Biden have combined.

Whether this is a brilliant choice or a bad risk will depend on how Ms. Palin performs on the campaign trail. But if I were Joe Biden, I’d be worried. A former journalist, Sarah Palin is careful about what she says and says it well, qualities for which Mr. Biden is not renowned. Mr. Obama picked Mr. Biden in part because of his reputed skill as a hatchet man. But if Mr. Biden comes on too hard in the vice presidential debate, he’ll look like a bully. And Alaska is littered with the bodies of those who tried to bully Sarah Palin and failed.

The experience question — implicit in Kelly’s concern about Palin’s campaign performance — remains a kind of trap door on her candidacy. Obama’s endless parade of ignorant gaffes are walled off by a bodyguard of media fans. Governor Palin will have no such margin for error.

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