Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain Picks Palin: Concedes Experience Meme

McCain jumps the selection box he was in by picking Alaska Governor Palin.

It's a clear pander to Hillary supporters: why pick Palin, who has only one year experience, less than Pawlenty? Because she's a woman and not pro-choice (like Snowe).

Talk about the clearest signal of identity politics. Interesting. Palin has no qualifications to be on the ticket other than she's a woman who opposes abortion. Why not Mary Matlin?

Nevertheless, I'd say this was probably McCain's smartest move. (Or is it? See my second thoughts on it here.) Won't alienate the base but gets to keep his "maverick" label (and keeps Romney out of the White House) while wooing the disgruntled Hillary PUMAs.

Just one problem. Biden will chew her up and spit her out. (Or is he counting on the fact that Biden won't be tough on a woman? Don't bet on that.) And this basically concedes the "experience" line of attack against Obama, since Palin has none. She certainly isn't ready Day 1 (and the likelihood that she'd need to be is a lot higher).

My bet is that this selection wasn't made until after Obama's speech. If Obama had given a lukewarm speech, not seemed Presidential, or given McCain a Dukakus moment, he'd have gone with Romney or Pawlenty. But Obama came off Presidential last night, got to seem historic, and got Hillary on board.

Need proof this was a last-minute pick? Palin is still in Alaska, not Ohio.

McCain must have calculated that the path to take now was to give up on the no-experience meme and co-opt Obama's message of change. And to do that while going after the PUMAs. Question is: did Obama's convention do all he needed to do to heal the party?

My suspicion is, Hillary supporters won't be swayed by Palin on the ticket. But McCain will use her to co-opt the "freshness" and "outsider" message of Obama. He's saying, the public will trust Republicans with that message more than Democrats. My guess: he'll get a bounce out of that. But not one as big as Obama's.

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