The Top Ten Ways Sarah Palin Has Shaken Up the Race
It seems only a few days ago that the Obama camp was secretly pushing the Eagleton storyline: Sarah Palin should get out of the race. The McCain camp, if inclined to respond, would probably say: "in your dreams."
Palin has taken the GOP faithful by storm, captured the attention of the largest audience ever to watch a VP acceptance speech, and potentially created an entirely new presidential race. If the Obama camp seems flummoxed and floundering, alternating between horrid insults and praise for the new Republican VP nominee, it is easy to see why: she has completely shaken up the race.
Only a few days after her landmark speech, we can spot at least ten ways in which she may have altered the political landscape.
First, the Republican base is now energized and enthusiastic like never before in this race. If the Obama team was betting on a "turnout race" and a depressed conservative turnout, they make need to reconsider. She offers the potential to galvanize conservatives to a greater extent than anyone thought possible.
Second, Palin offers some geographic appeal and help in key swing states. If her appearance in Michigan on Friday is any clue, she may be a powerful weapon with blue collar voters there and in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the latter being places where Obama ran so poorly in the Democratic primary.
And Palin may also give her ticket heft in the west. She and McCain now present a pro-gun, pro-property rights, pro-drilling duo of westerners in contrast to the urban duo of Obama-Biden. I don't imagine the Democrats will even try the ritual hunting expedition which has become a mainstay in presidential races. (Better not to compete against a gal who slays moose.)
Third, Palin has helped revived McCain's maverick, outside the Beltway message. Get ready to hear more about her record of taking on GOP corruption and her disdain for the old boy network. McCain's acceptance speech promising to shake up Washington seemed newly credible with the addition of a VP who defeated an incumbent Republican governor hip-deep in cronyism.
Fourth, there are likely to be more attacks from the McCain camp on Obama's own history of accommodation with the Daley machine in Chicago. As detailed in David Freddoso's new book The Case Against Barack Obama, Obama's own record is not one of reform but of complicity in old style Chicago politics. With the appearance of someone who really did take on machine politics, we may see some contrast ads and maybe even some new inquiry from mainstream media outlets.
Fifth, the Hillary Clinton problem is back -- big time -- or rather, the problem with her disaffected voters. Hardcore pro-choice Democrats may not be tempted by the McCain-Palin ticket, but many apolitical women and female Reagan Democrats may be. By overlooking Clinton, Obama now faces new queries as to why the GOP was the one to break that much talked about glass ceiling. Even if a minority of the 18 million Hillary voters cross over to vote McCain-Palin, that would pose a significant problem for the Democrats who must do exceptionally well with women voters to make up for their historic difficulty with male voters.
Sixth, for the first time in presidential politics Palin has engaged the community of families with special needs children. In her acceptance speech she declared:
To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.
The exact number of voters who have special needs children is hard to come by, but could well be in seven figures. Moreover, the ability to champion a nonpartisan issue like this heightens the broader McCain theme of reaching across-the aisle and finding common ground to serve voters.
Seventh, Palin will help McCain keep the energy issue front and center and pound home the message that the GOP is in favor of an all-out, multi-front effort to develop domestic sources of energy including oil and natural gas. She is an expert on the issue and can talk from experience about the desirability and environmental soundness of domestic oil and gas production. As the one who forced oil companies to renegotiate a pipeline deal in Alaska, she will be hard to pigeon-hole as the tool of Big Oil.
Eighth, she has dealt a blow, a big blow, to the credibility of the MSM. We witnessed a MSM feeding frenzy (ranging from spurious allegations about her support for Pat Buchanan to suggestions she was neglecting her family) the likes of which we haven't seen in a presidential race. Surviving that, she and McCain will not only run against the media (to the delight of the conservative base) but will try to largely ignore them. And to the extent that their credibility has been wounded by a failed and vicious attack on her, the public will be less inclined to pay attention to their pearls of wisdom or to think it odd that Palin doesn't appear as a guest on Hardball.
Ninth, Palin has made Joe Biden a greater liability. Vice presidents are now a big story this election cycle and that likely isn't a good thing for Biden. His penchant for creating controversy and his inclination to say stupid and insulting things might have otherwise escaped notice; now he becomes the foil for Palin who so far at least has demonstrated an ability to stay on message. (And additional comparison between the two VPs might bring to like the glaring contrast between the machine-busting outsider and the Senator from MBNA.)
Tenth, Palin allows many voters the opportunity to avoid "standing in the way of history." It is clear that many Americas celebrate and are intrigued by the history-making Obama president. Not surprisingly, they think it would be a wonderful sign of progress for an African-American to break this barrier. The Obama campaign has implicitly seized on this, inviting and encouraging voters to make history. Well, now the McCain camp has the same appeal and can provide solace to voters who might otherwise feel, well guilty, for blocking an African American's path to the White House.
Time will tell whether some or all of these factors have real electoral consequences. But what is certain is that Palin has introduced new themes, altered old ones, and injected a sense of uncertainty and excitement in a race which already had its share of twists and turns.
Not bad for a candidate the MSM and Left bloggers were trying to drive from the race a week ago. You don't suppose that was the reason, do you?