Earlier, I gave you my off-the-cuff, political junkie reaction to John McCainâ€™s selection of Sarah Palin for a running mate. Itâ€™s great political theater and will give us plenty to talk about. But was it wise? Hereâ€™s my sober analysis:
This was a surprisingly unserious pick. Palin has scant experience. She makes Barack Obama look like a seasoned veteran. For shock value, McCain gets an A+. For justifiability, I give him a D. Itâ€™s like he had a check-list of equally weighted criteria. Social conservative. Check. Reform-minded. Check. Minority/Woman. Check. Experience. Eh. Three out of four ainâ€™t bad.
Except, experience matters. A lot. Sure, Dan Quayle was not exactly a wizened political figure and he didnâ€™t keep George H. W. Bush from winning the election. But that was twenty years ago in a different era. Plus, letâ€™s face it, Bush was up against Michael Dukakis. Obama is no Dukakis.
Look, I do like the message this pick sends. That McCain is committed to shaking things up. But boy does this demonstrate the sad state of the Republican party. The best â€œoutsider,â€ most â€œexcitingâ€ pick available to McCain is a 44 year-old half-term governor from a sparsely populated state. The Republican cupboards are pretty bare.
All that said, if Palin keeps from making rookie mistakes and manages to seem serious and intelligent, the pick probably doesnâ€™t hurt McCainâ€™s chances because, realistically, vice presidents donâ€™t matter much in a presidential election. But if she stumbles a lot and seems unfocused, sheâ€™ll draw a lot of attention away from McCainâ€™s significant experience and make it nearly impossible for the McCain campaign to accuse Obama of being too green. Plus, if McCain/Palin play this wrong, she will consistently, if unintentionally, remind voters of McCainâ€™s advanced age.
Of course, thereâ€™s also a way this pays off. If she turns out to be a super-intelligent politician and a brilliant campaigner who can connect with middle-class voter and especially with women, she could keep McCain competitive and give him a real shot at winning. But that, my friends, is drawing to an inside straight. I wouldnâ€™t put my money on it. McCain has put everything on it. Weâ€™ll see how that works out for him.