And Now: My Serious Analysis of Palin

And Now: My Serious Analysis of Palin


Earlier, I gave you my off-the-cuff, political junkie reaction to John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin for a running mate. It’s great political theater and will give us plenty to talk about. But was it wise? Here’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. It’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 ain’t bad.

Except, experience matters. A lot. Sure, Dan Quayle was not exactly a wizened political figure and he didn’t keep George H. W. Bush from winning the election. But that was twenty years ago in a different era. Plus, let’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 “outsider,” most “exciting” 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 doesn’t hurt McCain’s chances because, realistically, vice presidents don’t matter much in a presidential election. But if she stumbles a lot and seems unfocused, she’ll draw a lot of attention away from McCain’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 McCain’s advanced age.

Of course, there’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 wouldn’t put my money on it. McCain has put everything on it. We’ll see how that works out for him.

  • Americaneocnon

    Nice analysis, except you’re off on Dukakis, who was longest serving governor in Massachusetts history. Obama’s “experience” is nothing like that. Dukakis lost because of cold technocratic reasons, and his refusal to attack back, not because he was inexperienced.

  • Rob in Denver

    It does seem a little early for McCain to go all in, yes?

  • mike mcEachran

    This was McCain’s last chance to really change the game. He had to something – it’s not like he could go all-in in October. This was his last card to play.

    My reaction mirrored yours (only from my left of center point of view). At first I thought this was a good pick for him and afraid this really could be a game changer. Then after I watched their announcement I felt much better. McCain looked more awkward than ever. And older. The Obama ticket now looks totally seasoned and ready to lead. I think she highlights McCain’s weaknesses rather than shores them up. We’ll see, but this could change the game in a bad way for McCain.

  • LenMan

    I have to disagree with you, when you state that Vice President’s don’t matter in the election.

    We’re all quite aware that McCain is no Spring chicken. His VP selection should be someone people should reasonably agree could run the country.

    Sarah “who” isn’t going to inspire such confidence. Not in a couple months.

    It was a poor choice for McCain to pick an unknown. Condi would have been a better choice.

  • mw

    No. If you watched the speech last night, if you saw the reactions in Denver, here on this blog, among Dems, and among Reps – it was clear that this election was on the verge of being over. Playing a “serious” boring hand like Pawlenty or Romney? Might as well fold now.

    I just heard Chuck Todd on MSNBC with a good analysis. He said McCain understands that this year in a Change vs. Experience election – Change wins. Clinton learned that. Good to see that McCain learned it too.

    It was not a big risk because McCain was sitting on a losing hand. If Palin screws it up, it didn’t change the outcome. But sometimes you do pull that inside straight. And sometimes you learn that your opponent was just bluffing after all. It was a very good bet.

    BTW- Interesting to note that 9 of the last 11 posts here at the Donk are all about Palin. And you have to go back 15 posts and midnight last night to find a post about the history making, biggest, most spectacular, best attended, most watched nomination speech in the history of the country. Anyone remember that speech? I was wondering, because nobody is talking about it today.

  • MIke

    “Palin has scant experience. She makes Barack Obama look like a seasoned veteran.”

    How is that? I’ve heard that in other places as well and I honestly don’t get it. As far as major political positions, Obama was a senator for about 3 years before running for president . Palin has been governor for about a year and half. Frankly, I think being a governor is much better preparation than being a senator, since it is executive experience. So how does that make Obama the seasoned veteran?

  • David

    I want to like Sarah Palin, but can’t. Here’s why:
    Palin, on creationism in public schools: “Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.”

    I’m a Christian, and from time to time I get to tell non-Christians about my faith. The person I’m talking to usually knows that not all Christians believe in a young Earth, the Rapture, and the Bible according to Darby, but they often think they’re supposed to, the way Catholics are supposed to avoid birth control and often don’t. The idea that it might be possible to be a completely Bible-believing Christian without believing that the Earth is six thousand years old is usually a new one, and I’m getting very tired of having to explain that.

  • Gaucho Politico

    Part of McCain’s consideration may have been internal polling with indys. He went with a pick way right. She is a person that will excite and energize the foot soldiers of the right, the evangelicals to hit the pavement for the ticket. If McCain sees victory only through major turnout among his base then this is the type of pick he would make. If he was going to lose independents it makes sense for him to try and move a little right with the VP in order to make it up in the base.

  • Marco

    You mean if she stumbles a lot like Sen. Obama sans teleprompter??? Or perhaps the even more absurd, “she makes Barack Obama look like a seasoned veteran”. Barack Obama’s experience, life and governmental, is comprehensively INFERIOR to that of Sarah Palin’s. I challenge anyone to name one single solitary accomplishment of worthwhile note that Obama has that warrants him to be President. Please, just one! This does not even mention the overall incongruent comparison that this whole experience debate is based on. Palin is running for VP, yet has more experience and salient accomplishments than the Hyde Park Communist who is running for President.

    Any doubts out there? Please take some time to watch Palin’s CNBC interview that aired yesterday. She is far more in command of the facts as they relate to the most important issue of our time (energy) than Obama is on anything (again sans teleprompter).

  • Marco

    Also on teaching both, creationism and evolution, what’s the big deal? Perhaps if you let your ossified liberal minds wander (like you should right? esp. being supposedly more tolerant and all) you may come to realize that evolution can be taught in bio class, while creationism could be added in a world history/cultures elective class that deals in part with religion. Please tell me what’s wrong with that? Our students need to hear all the facts on all sides of every issue and not just the de riguer upper West Side cocktail hour talking points parroted by know-it-all metrosexuals in poplin shirt uniforms who have never really lived.

  • Alan Stewart Carl

    Sometimes I forget how literally people read my posts. The “seasoned veteran” remark was not meant to imply that Obama literally is a seasoned veteran. Just that if the Republicans are going to argue that Palin has the experience necessary to serve in the highest office, it’s going to be very hard for them to argue that Obama doesn’t have the proper experience. I think, to most people, 4 years in the U.S. Senate (even with two being spent campaigning for president) will seem like more experience than 2 years spent as governor of a very unpopulated, remote state. You can argue that it’s comparable but you can’t argue that Palin is profoundly more qualified than Obama.

    Also, re: Dukakis. He imploded politically. Didn’t mean to imply he was inexperienced. I meant to imply that Obama is less likely to implode because he seems more inclide to fight back.

  • Mike

    Alan, I get what you’re saying, but I still think being a governor of even a relatively unpopulated state is much better preparation for president than being a junior senator, even for twice the amount of time. I guess that’s just a matter of opinion though.

    In any case, I agree that their experience, by the numbers, is somewhat comparable. What I disagreed with was your implication that Obama was way ahead of her in terms of experience.

    But, beyond the numbers, I agree with Marco that, in terms of accomplishments, it seems to me Palin is ahead of Obama. Again, just my opinion.

    Also let’s not forget that she is the #2, not the #1. Granted, the #2 can become the #1, but there is a difference, which many pundits are ignoring. I think if you take a relatively inexperienced person who has shown strength of character, and you let her campaign and serve under someone as experienced as McCain, it won’t take long for her to gain the national and international perspective that she would need to be a good president. Obama’s ticket, on the other hand, is upside down. So even if the experience of Palin and Obama are somewhat equal, I still give the edge to McCain/Palin on the experience issue.

    More here.

  • Justin Gardner

    People…come on. Palin LITERALLY has 1.5 years of experience as Governor under her belt. Before that she was mayor of a town of 9,000. That’s the sum total of her executive experience, and she has ZERO foreign policy experience.

    So, if you all think Obama’s 10.5 years of legislative experience (7 in state senate, 3.5 in the national senate) is somehow less valuable, you’re going to actually give some detailed reasoning as to why and how it’s less valuable.

  • mw

    Justin if you can completely dismiss her executive experience as a mayor, I can dismiss his legislative experience in the State Legislature which LITERALLY has nothing to do with being President. OF the 3.5 years in the Senate, Obama has spent two of them running for President. Her two of years of executive experience as Governor is more relevant that his 3 years as Senator which gives him a grand total of ZERO executive experience. The closest thing he has ever done in an executive capacity is run his campaign for Presidency.

    There is nothing in Obama’s resume that qualifies him any more than Palin to be President, except his successful primary campaign for President. As a result of that campaign, a majority of Democrats got to see him in action and decided he is qualified despite his minimal resume. I’m good with that. That is what elections are for. Similarly Palin now has the same opportunity to be tested in a campaign with her comparably weak resume. The voters will decide if she is qualified, just like Obama.

    And like I stated before – there is nothing I like better than debating who has a less weak resume to be President between Palin and Obama. Just the fact that it is debatable, means Obama loses.

    OH – and Palin is running for VP, while Obama is running for President.

  • Mike

    Justin, if you’re going to discount Palin’s experience as a mayor, you’re going to have to actually give some detailed reasoning as to why Obama’s time as a state senator is more valuable. And how that gives him more foreign policy experience?

    A state senator might represent more people than a mayor, but as mayor you are accountable for what happens in your city. As a state senator you can blame everything on someone else.

    Again, I think this comes down to individual opinions on what kinds of experiences you want a potential vice president to have. Again, personally I’d rather have a mayor and governor that a state and national senator. If you disagree, so be it.

    And also, as I stated before, it’s more than just the number of years. It’s the accomplishments. Palin has proven a lot more about herself in her limited time in government experience than Obama has in his limited time.

  • Roger Holmquist

    Executive experience….
    It’s ridicoulous….
    From 9000 to half a million inhabitants in two years…….and now, handling the global interests on the behalf of 300 million citizens in the greatest country in the world where Alaska is a tiny piece…

    This fairytale will not come true, believe me…

    Yes, she is a heartbeat from POTUS…
    That’s particularly true when you consider the health status of John McCain…

    How will she handle Putin?

    Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Moscow i suppose…

    Sorry but it’s unbelievable anybody can even THINK of voting this couple into the White house…

  • Mike

    “From 9000 to half a million inhabitants in two years…….and now, handling the global interests on the behalf of 300 million citizens in the greatest country in the world where Alaska is a tiny piece…”

    So, how many people has Obama been accountable to in an executive position?

  • mw

    This is the thing that the Obama supporters don’t get: You can’t attack Palin’s experience without calling attention to Obama’s. The discussion always always always invokes a comparison between Obama’s experience (POTUS candidate) and Palin’s experience (VP candidate). There is just no way to come away from that discussion without concluding there is not that much difference in experience. Even if the conclusion is that Obama has marginal more experience than Palin, he loses the argument. Because guess who is not even in the argument? The Republican candidate for President of the United States.

    I was watching this dynamic all day on the cable news shows and busting out laughing everytime. The Obama supporters just don’t get it.

    I don’t know if McCain could possibly have anticipated that this is how the pick would play out, but if he did – he’s a friggin’ political genius.

  • melissa

    These tickets are virtually equal on the merits.

    However, John McCain has not presented any compelling vision for the future, he has not deviated from failed Bush economic policies, he has doubled down on divisive politics, and his ground operation is underwhelming. Palin mocks and disdains Obama. These are not admirable facts about McCain.

    He has to run on the past eight years of lies, corruption, hypocrisy, and incompetent government. He has treated his campaign like a poker game. I don’t want my future or my kids’ future treated like a game!

    You know, Obama has asked people to stand up and take responsibility for themselves and their communities. All I heard from the Republicans was snide derision. Again no vision.

    Barack Obama appears more Presidential by the day and will receive my vote, and I will work to make him President.