The Bright Side

Paul and I have already voiced our concerns about John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin for Vice-President. Now it’s time to look at the upside. In fact, there is a lot to like about Palin. To begin with, her nomination provoked a typically mean-spirited reaction from the Obama campaign:

Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Of course, “zero foreign policy experience” describes Obama, too, unless giving ill-informed campaign speeches constitutes “experience.” So maybe, in the end, Palin will highlight Obama’s lack of qualifications rather than undermining McCain’s critique of them. Maybe.

Then, too, Palin’s selection was probably the only one that could drive Obama’s speech last night off the front pages. Just in time, perhaps, as the Obama bounce is now up to 8 points if you believe Gallup. (That tends to support the conclusion that Obama is an effective demagogue.)

Palin could help McCain with several demographics, like the pageant community. Here she is as Miss Wasilla 1984:


News reports indicate that the crowd in Dayton, Ohio responded enthusiastically to references to Palin as an athlete. She was the point guard on a state champion basketball team:

I think McCain has pretty much got the hunter/fisherman demographic sewn up, but Palin will certainly be a plus there, too:

She is a big supporter of the troops, and her oldest son is headed for Iraq:

I like this one; Palin is the one with the gun. Unlike Michael Dukakis, she actually knows how to fire it:

I think voters will like the whole Palin family. Her husband Todd is a commercial fisherman and also works in oil production on the North Slope. I think this photo is of Sarah working on the family’s fishing boat; I’m told that as Governor, she still does that on weekends:

Todd Palin is a union member and a world-class snowmobile racer; here they are at a race:

A lot of voters are going to find this image appealing. I certainly do. In general, Palin’s strengths seem to reinforce McCain’s, but she could help a bit with blue-collar voters.

Substantively, Palin is a legitimate reformer. She killed the “bridge to nowhere,” which is probably the only pork project most voters have heard of. She is a solid conservative and, perhaps best of all, she is an expert on energy and a staunch advocate of drilling. A large majority of Alaskans want develop ANWR; one hopes that Palin can change McCain’s mind on that part of the energy issue.

I, for one, am very tired of hearing Democrats say that we can’t drill ourselves out of our energy shortage. We could, actually, but since when is that the standard? Wharton Econometrics Forecasting Associates estimates that developing ANWR petroleum alone could create 736,000 American jobs. How about if we stop outsourcing our energy production and drill ourselves a few million great, high-paying jobs? The energy issue is a huge winner for the Republicans, and Palin should be able to help make the case, especially if McCain comes around on Alaska oil.

A favorite mainstream media trick is to begin the description of any Republican or conservative by reciting his or her opposition to abortion and gay marriage, as though these were that person’s signature issues. I’ve seen that done already with Palin. By now, everyone knows that her youngest child, an infant, has Down syndrome. Palin’s commitment to her pro-life principles has made her popular with social conservatives–again, not a group that McCain particularly needs help with–and respected by some moderates, too.

McCain may have selected Palin in part to appeal to disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters; if so, I’m not sure there are a lot of votes there to be had. But Palin may well be a plus with more moderate women. Ann Althouse, a classic swing voter, I think, is very excited about the pick, and it seems that many women share that sentiment.

So, while it’s hard to argue that Sarah Palin was the most qualified of the candidates McCain had to choose from, she is obviously a bold choice and one that may turn out to pay dividends.

PAUL adds: A friend who is toiling at the convention on one of the committees reports that Palin’s selection was greeted by “thunderous applause and a standing ovation.” (The reaction from Alaskans at the convention apparently is more mixed — a sign that she’s been a genuine reformer there).

Thus, Bill Otis may well be right when he says:

She’s going to bring some excitement to our people that McCain couldn’t and wouldn’t get by himself. A campaign needs foot soldiers, call makers, [and] envelope stuffers. Our people have been glum for months. The reason contributions were way down is that enthusiasm was way down. Palin will perk it up.

McCain apparently was trying for two-fer: someone who can energize the base but who also has cross-over appeal — not to hard core Hillary supporters, but to moderate voters, especially females. There were few, if any, other prospective nominees who offered this sort of possibility.

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