WASHINGTON -- Conservatives, who reputedly have lumps of coal where their hearts should be, have fallen in love. So have many people who are not doctrinal conservatives. The world is a sweeter place because Sarah Palin has increased the quantity of love, but this is not a reliable foundation for John McCain's campaign.
The tech bubble was followed by the housing bubble, which has been topped by the Palin bubble. Bubbles will always be with us, because irrational exuberance always will be. Its symptom is the assumption that old limits have yielded to undreamt-of possibilities: The Dow will always rise, as will housing prices, and rapture about a running mate can be decisive in a presidential election.
Palin is as bracing as an Arctic breeze and delightfully elicits the condescension of liberals whose enthusiasm for everyday middle-class Americans cannot survive an encounter with one. But the country's romance with her will, as romances do, cool somewhat, and even before November some new fad might distract a nation that loves "American Idol" for the metronomic regularity with which it discovers genius in persons hitherto unsuspected of it.
McCain should, therefore, enunciate a closing argument for his candidacy that goes to fundamentals of governance, concerning which the vice presidency is usually peripheral. His argument should assert the virtues of something that voters, judging by their behavior over time, prefer -- divided government.
The incumbent Republican president's job approval is in the low 30s but is about 10 points higher than that of the Democratic-controlled Congress. The 22nd Amendment will banish the president in January, but Congress will then be even more Democratic than it is now. Does the country really want there to be no check on it? Consider two things that will quickly become law unless McCain is there to veto them or unless -- this is a thin reed on which to depend -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has 40 reliable senators to filibuster them to deserved deaths.
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