Pity poor Minnesota Governor Timothy J. (Tim) Pawlenty. He supposedly was on Senator John S. McCain's short list for Vice President. As the list was whittled down he appeared to be the last man standing. On the final day of the Democratic Convention in Denver the pundits labeled him the odds-on favorite to be named the McCain Veep candidate. Then came the telephone call on Thursday night. Senator McCain told Governor Pawlenty that he was going with someone else. Pawlenty than issued a cryptic statement, saying that he would not be named.
Identity of the McCain pick was the best kept political secret in modern history. Early Friday morning, Fox News political reporter Carl Cameron broke the story: the Governor of Alaska. What a bombshell! She had been written off by nearly everyone and when asked about it she discredited the likelihood of her selection as McCain's running mate. The choice sent shock waves through the body politick. Conservatives were nearly unanimous in high praise. The left attacked her with remarkable vehemence. At first the Obama campaign attacked her selection. Half an hour later the Obama campaign issued a statement offering modest praise. After McCain's congratulatory commercial, in which McCain noted how far Americans had come that Obama would be nominated on the day 45 years after Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, Obama did not want to appear less gracious.
Pundits will debate what the Sarah Heath Palin selection will mean to McCain. Meanwhile, here is how I look at this controversial nomination. First, the selection probably will prevent Obama's gathering much of a head of steam. Coming out of the Convention Obama had a bounce estimated at 9%. That will almost certainly be affected by the media extravaganza over the Palin selection. Second, the Palin pick sends Republicans into their convention with a head of steam they otherwise would not have.
Palin's selection highlights McCain as a political gambler. It will be difficult to picture him as a demented old man who is out of it. This puts him on the top of his game. Next, her selection excites McCain's base. That was absolutely necessary if he were to have a strong shot at election. The selection of a pro-abortionist, such as Governor Thomas (Tom) Ridge, would have caused a Convention floor revolt. Even the selection of former Governor Mitt Romney would have caused problems with some Evangelicals. Choice of Pawlenty, while generally acceptable, would have generated a yawn in political circles. Palin generates real excitement. It remains to be seen how significant her appeal to independents will be but she appeared off to a good start with her acknowledgement of Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
There is now youth on both tickets - Obama at the op and Palin at number two. How will this fly with the body politick? For one thing, the pro-aborts hate her. She is the mother of five, including a Downs Syndrome baby. The radical feminists are foaming at the mouth over this selection, which I believe will help McCain. In a pro-life v. pro-abortion contest pro-life prevails by an estimated 6%. Palin is genuinely a reformer and has clear reformer credentials. Obama claims to be a reformer but there is scarce evidence.
What of Palin's liabilities? It mainly is in the area of experience. The one issue McCain is using against Obama which really has caught on is the question of whether Obama is qualified to be President of the United States. By placing Palin on the ticket he hardly can argue that she is immediately equipped to be President. She has been Governor less than two years, before that mayor of a small town. True, she is the only candidate on either ticket who at least has had some executive experience. Yet it is hard to argue that she is equipped to deal with Vladimir Putin. That issue, while not dead, is much diminished. We shall see how it washes.
She also lacks foreign-policy experience, the strong suit of Senator Joseph R Biden, Jr. Of course, McCain can argue that he has all the foreign-policy experience necessary. True, but that does not answer what would happen were he to be become incapacitated and Palin to assume the Presidency. The measure of that issue well may depend upon the Vice Presidential debate. If Palin performed well, were reasonably knowledgeable and kept up with Biden that issue likely would go away. If, on the other, Biden blew her away, all bets would be off.
Finally, think of Hillary. While she is going through the motions to help elect Obama, it is an open secret that she would not be disappointed if he lost, enabling her to run in 2012. But should McCain - Palin win and McCain become incapacitated Palin would be President. Or what if McCain said one term is enough. Palin would be in the catbird seat to win the Presidency. Even if he secured eight years she still would have the edge. That realization is liable to cause Hillary significant heartburn. Watch for the Clintons to do all they can to undercut Palin. When all is said and done McCain has rewritten the parameters of this contest. I predict it will be close all the way until November 4. Yet it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the Governor of Alaska will be the next Vice President of the United States.