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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin

My gut reaction is that while McCain's choice of Sarah Palin is a good pick, like most vice-presidential selections, it isn't a game changer. Ironically, most of my praise for Palin comes from the numerous ways I would compare her to Barack Obama.

The Positives:

One of the messages from Obama that I really like is the idea that Washington is broken. Even if liberal, Obama has a solidly "populist" tone that appeals to some conservatives like me. Washington is broken. And the way we're doing things isn't working. He's so right about that.

I also respect Obama because of his outside experience. I actually admire his education, that he found Christ on his own, and that he worked as a community organizer. These are all qualities that appeal to me. So too do I like that he's new to Washington. I admire his quick rise -- good politicians do that, unlike McCain who has acts like he's been waiting all his 72 years to get this chance.

Afterall, I'm the guy who has been arguing for the "Mayor of Topeka" for president. We need outsiders like Obama and yes, Sarah Palin, who know from recent experience what American life is like outside the Beltway.

For all these same reasons, I like Sarah Palin. I like that she's not experienced in the ways of Washington. I like that she had a rapid rise from PTA to City Council to Mayor to Governor to Vice Presidential nominee. I like the image she portrays as a working mom who is proud to show off her family and not act like they're tokens in the background of her life.

Palin is a strong conservative with limited executive experience. I think it's great that she comes from a small state and that just a few years ago she was nobody special. Corny notions like that affirm my idea of the American dream. Furthermore, if Palin actually took on the corrupt interests of Big Oil, I really like that in her. Also I particularly like her strong support of gun rights, oil drilling, and fiscal responsiblity.

The Negatives:

I must concede there are negatives and risks too. John McCain did this to cater to his conservative base. In return, the right has universally praised this selection. However, except for stubborn fools like me, McCain's conservative base was going to vote for him anyway. For two years they have talked tough, but in the end they couldn't wait to jump on the bandwagon. Just as we saw with the Clinton-Obama campaign, this is what believers in the big parties do.

So for this group, Palin does little for him. She gets votes that McCain already had. Now the right can feel a little better about their November vote. True, in the interim she may help raise money from this same now-enthused block. But McCain has accepted public financing so raising money is far less important than getting votes.

Can she get votes? We'll see. My best guess would be no. You see, that's still up to McCain himself. Even though I personally like Palin and would vote for her if the ticket were reversed, she's still just the vice president nominee. Let's remember: she won't be advocating her own record. In both her convention speech and in the veep debate, she'll have to defend McCain's record. Yikes!!

Will Palin get the Hillary voters? I doubt it. Can the same person who so appeals to the Pat Robertson crowd also appeal to the Hillary crowd? I just don't think so. In fact, her ardent opposition to abortion may turn off some who otherwise might have considered the moderate McCain. But if John McCain really wanted this group, perhaps he would have selected a pro-choicer like Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman.

Finally, there are rumors of minor skeletons in her closet. All politicians have them so I'm sure she may too. And since Palin is so unknown (especially as compared to Joe Biden), the press will be out there looking for anything. And if they do find something, it will become a big deal. Also, I think her inexperience makes it more likely she'll put her foot in her mouth. But, in fairness, Joe Biden has plenty of experience and he'll do that too.


Let's face it -- this is the Governor of Alaska. I don't know much about her. You don't know much about her. Nobody knows anything about her, apparently not even John McCain himself as yesterday was only their 2nd meeting ever! We will have to judge how strong of a candidate she makes at the convention, on the trail, and in the veep debate.

So on balance, I like Sarah Palin very much. I think I would vote for HER. But I don't think the pick changes the overall equation very much. It may work. It may not. But more than likely it will be neutral in the final outcome. Because let's remember: John McCain and Barack Obama are still the ones running for president!