All right, I've surveyed the landscape. I've read loads. I haven't exactly "researched" Palin, but suffice it to say I'm comfortable that there won't be any game-killing skeletons in her closet. She survived a vetting from a team that has shown adeptness at this game--let's hope they weren't disarmed from their duties by her charm. So, ASSUMING that all is well with her background, here's what I think:
it's too early to tell.
If she does what she needs to do, than this is a slam dunk. No, scratch that: this is Mario Chalmers hitting the game-tying 3 in the NCAA final with the clock expiring. Seriously, this COULD BE that big.
And it has nothing to do with her gender. It has EVERYTHING to do with what she brings to the table: conservative credentials, executive experience, adherence to the reform brand, and a "newness" that is sorely needed in this election. Seriously, how many people are sick and tired of the other 3 guys already?
When will we know how this pick plays out? Well, this Wednesday (if it holds according to plan) will be the first test. Can she assume the role of attack dog? If she can, that allows McCain to do what he needs to do: articulate a vision for America. I agree with the pundits (too numerous to list) that say that the one thing missing from McCain so far is "inspiration", and--as Obama's success indicates--the American people are open to being inspired. McCain will have a chance to do that this week--provided Palin can take care of business the night before.
There is loads of material for her to work with, most of it provided to her by Obama himself. If she were the grinding type, she'd walk on-stage with a transcript of Obama's speech and rip it apart point after point. The picture of the depressing America that Obama and Biden painted with their words can be erased really quickly with an energetic rebuttal from Palin. I'm sure she won't go with the above-crafted staging, but she may very well do the task as laid out here. There are at least a dozen lines that need to be brought to light and mocked, and Palin is in prime position to do the mocking. And that is but one of the doors available to her. No matter how she goes about the task, we'll see what kind of mettle she's made from then.
Then, of course, there's the debate. I have no doubt that she will be well-prepared, but what she really needs to do is be genuine. Don't be the snotty teenager who thinks he knows more than the headmaster (a la Edwards vs Cheney in '04)--just be a confident woman who is happy to engage in an intellectual conversation with a knowledgeable foe. (And then we'll find her one--cymbal crash, please!) She doesn't have to win that debate, she just has to "not lose".
Here is the message Palin needs to have: it isn't about time held in office, it's about the office's holding of time. Obama: many years of elected office, all he seems to do is run to another stop and write another book. Biden: 26 years as Senator, and he's done what other than introduce the worst spectacles of partisanship to the government's runnings? Palin, on the other hand, has worked as a populace's executive for many years, fighting the corruption of her own party along the way and doing the best for her people. She has worked with foreign governments, she has led military personnel, she has done all that while being a mother of 5 (let's keep in mind that many people consider mother to be the hardest job in the world). Let Obama's camp try to take issue with any of those--they'll come up grasping for straws.
And then the hammer swings about the rights of the unborn. . .and then about the rights of the born. I think the appeal of the McCain-Palin ticket in this area alone has some amazing potential. McCain needed someone like Palin in order to make this attack properly--and now that trap is set. BAIPA, we hardly knew ye! If only on this issue--and it won't be just on this issue, but this is the one that's made-for-TV ready--the painting of Obama as a "more liberal than his party" leftist will get some legs. Make it early, make it often--make it stick!
The more I think about it, the more I think Obama blew it last night. He didn't look like a President, he looked like a VP. And when he loses that air of "being above it all"--which he did for key parts of the speech last night--you look at him and you see one thing: Chicago machine pol. And that's where Palin should set her aim: not at Biden, but rather at the other "new guy" in the game--and show us he's not much new. He's the same ol' politician that Chicagoans have seen for years. And while that may be well and good for some jurisdictions, America ain't one of 'em! The difference in the narratives they tell from their life stories couldn't be more different.
And let's make sure the only person who talks about glass ceilings is Obama--I'll allow Palin her one reference today, as it was a major play to Hill's base who may have been listening and can be reasoned with, but that kind of identity talk has no place in the GOP.
And to be sure, McCain's pick isn't directed exactly at Clinton supporters. If Clinton got 18 million votes in the primaries, then I'd expect McCain to only get . . .uh, how about none of those. I mean, let's be honest--their constituencies don't exactly overlap. But Palin on the ticket shores up the GOP base, which needed something like this to generate down-ticket enthusiasm. Also, Palin will play well to those who didn't vote in the primaries--she and her family are unassuming, hard-working, country-loving folks who just happen to believe that service to the people is a noble trade. And that's a message that will appeal to a lot of people who take the primaries off. Anyhow, Clinton and Obama combined for around 40 million votes in the primaries. If Obama doesn't get much more than that, he's toast! While there may still be some Obamacans out there, and of course he'll pick up some votes from people who just didn't go to the primaries, I now feel confident that Obama won't win because conservatives decide to take the day off.
What I'm interested to watch for the next 2 months: who will blow it first? Because you know a meltdown is coming, it's just a matter of when. Will it be Palin, finding the going on this big stage too tough? Will it be Biden, a man known for his motormouth? Will it be Michelle, no stranger to gaffes and perhaps a little upset that she isn't a "queen bee" in this election anymore? Or will it be Mr. "Sweetie" himself?
If it's nothing else, it's interesting. And who'd have thunk that the day after the DNC convention, the candidate everyone would be talking about was NOT Obama. He did receive a bounce (it's up to 8 now), and I wouldn't be surprised to see it get a little higher than that. But this week, we should see that number chipping away. And if Palin does what she needs to do, and allows McCain to do what he wants to do. . .well, by next weekend, the 3-day tracking polls may be telling a very, very interesting story.
ADDENDUM: Watching Fox News tonight, I noted that Juan Williams said that he was surprised that McCain went with someone so "inexperienced" as his running mate. Bill Kristol was "on it", asking what experience does Obama have? Williams responded that we've seen him run a campaign for the last 2 years. Kristol allowed that such activity does indeed give someone "experience", but that the final verdict on Palin's "experience" to match Obama will be made over the next 60-odd days, not so much right now. I'm fine and good with that--I agree that Palin has to show herself worthy of this selection. But what I hope the McCain camp responds with, when presented the same argument, is just how much Obama has learned in "experience" during that time. All the positions he held two years ago? They're pretty much gone. The people he listed as his mentors and influences? Pretty much gone, although he has tried to bring back his grandmother from the trash heap. And most importantly, the rhetoric of two years ago--totally gone. SO experience has taught him one thing: his judgement sucks.
Is that the kind of experience you want in the White House?