Following the coronation/angst-fest of the Democrats’ fete in Denver, most people were expecting a fairly convention-al Republican gathering in Minneapolis, starting on Monday.
That all changed early Friday, when John McCain picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. With the Democratic ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden building momentum, McCain lived up to his maverick image and picked an outside-the-box running mate, a political unknown who could inject even more drama into an already remarkable race.
A long shot gets the nod
Palin—who was only elected governor in 2006—was thought to be something of a dark horse in the veepstakes, behind more traditional picks like Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts and successful businessman, and Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, a rising star with working-class roots.
Depending on how you look at it, McCain’s decision to pick Palin was either a bit desperate or absolutely inspired. At 44 she brings youth to the Republican ticket (McCain turns 72 on Friday). She’s also a staunch conservative Christian, which might help McCain shore up support from the religious right—a crucial voting bloc for the GOP. What’s more, she has a reputation as a reformer and is big on oil drilling, echoing a theme that McCain has been pushing in his campaign.
Now to the obvious: she’s a she. Many see the choice of Palin as move by Republicans to siphon off some disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters from the Democrats. Whether that will work is very debatable. She’s staunchly anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage, and a big NRA supporter, all things that won’t sit well with most Hillary voters.
The big picture
Palin of course is a historic choice, only the second woman on a major-party ticket in American history, following Geraldine Ferraro’s unsuccessful try as vice president on the Democratic ticket in 1984.
After Obama’s rousing acceptance speech Thursday night, McCain was obviously looking for something to jolt his campaign heading into the Republican convention—and only time will tell if Palin will succeed in providing that.
By this time next week, the gloves could come off—the tickets will be set with the VP nominees, often the attack dogs, in place. What’s been a relatively mild race could turn “swift boat” quickly. Already the campaign camps are taking swings: McCain’s come under fire for owning eight homes and Obama has been accused of being unpatriotic.