Liberals have indignantly protested that McCain's choice of a woman was a "cynical" bid for disgruntled Hillary Clinton voters. But I don't think that's what this was about. In Palin, McCain found a reformer. He sees himself as a reformer and a clean government crusader. One might not always agree with his idea of reform (certainly campaign finance reform struck me as a blow to the First Amendment), but that he sees himself in that role is indisputable. In Sarah Palin, he found, as David Brooks shrewdly observed, a kindred spirit. Not just a soul mate but a gal with pizzazz and spirit! Who can resist a governor who comes into office on a promise to clean house and promptly sells the luxury jet her predecessor had bought on eBay? (She let the chauffeur and chef go, too.) Palin has confronted the corruption of her own party, just as McCain has done in Washington by challenging those among his colleagues he calls, not affectionately, "the appropriators." This throws down the gauntlet to Obama to cite a single instance when his mantra of change has been backed by actions. Has he ever crossed swords with those in his party? Ever denounced corruption among Democrats? His acceptance speech was a liberal wish list indistinguishable in content from those of Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, and Kerry. Is this change?
McCain must also have calculated that Palin's expertise on energy would help highlight the one domestic issue that has emerged as a clear winner for Republicans. One looks forward eagerly to the day when he explains that Sarah Palin has convinced him to reverse his opposition to drilling in ANWR.
And McCain must also have sensed that a young, attractive woman from a western state would inject a dose of energy and enthusiasm into the race. On this, McCain may not have even guessed at how right he was (though one senses that Cindy McCain knew). Sarah Palin is political dynamite. She has transformed Republicans from flaccid to fired-up overnight. Just by being pro-life, small town, patriotic, and religious, she set the teeth of the media types on edge. By being all of that AND smart and articulate, and a budget hawk, she sent conservatives over the moon.
Together McCain and Palin have changed the game. They have seized the mantle of reform and dare the Democrats to show anything comparable. In this worst of all years for Republicans, it no longer seems fanciful to imagine that they can win.
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