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August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin: John McCain’s Wide Receiver

Palin In politics as in football, a risky play is seen either as pure genius or total absurdity based on one criterion: did it work?  If a touchdown is scored on a flea-flicker pass, the coach is hailed as the next Vince Lombardi. But if the other team intercepts the pass and runs down the field for a touchdown of their own, well, most fans would have been content with a run up the middle for a few yards.

John McCain has shown himself to be more of the Bobby Bowden variety when it comes to play calling when choosing Alaska's Governor, Sarah Palin, to be his Vice Presidential running mate. By choosing Palin, he has thrown a long bomb for the endzone, hoping for a touchdown from all the social conservatives in both parties, along with women voters who may give McCain another look for putting a woman on his ticket.

By choosing to air out his passing game to his wide receiver, Governor Palin, McCain has strategically decided to bypass the more small-c conservative gains he might have made from a favorite son VP choice like former Massachussetts Governor Mitt Romney (with family ties in Michigan) or current Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Both may have given McCain a clear shot at picking up another state's electoral votes. In a close election, every state counts.

But by choosing Palin, a popular, pro-life, conservative governor with a young family, McCain has accomplished three valuable tasks before accepting his party's nomination:

1.  He's given the conservatives something to get excited about in Palin.

2.  Despite his 72 years, McCain's ticket now looks competitively fresh against Barack Obama's, given Obama's choice of an older U.S. Senator for his running mate.

3.  Despite the overwhelming bias for Obama among the mainstream press, they still love a good story, and McCain may reclaim their imagination with this historic choice of the first woman ever to serve on a Republican party's national ticket.

If I were to guess, the long bomb that McCain has thrown to Sarah Palin will be caught by her near the goal line. The social conservatives will block well for her as she tries to put it in the endzone for the Republicans and John McCain. And try she will if she still has inside her the competitiveness that earned her the nickname "Sarah Barracuda" on her championship-winning high school basketball team. 

Then, in what could be a matter of a handful of votes out of the 28 million women voters whom pollsters tell us are currently undecided, we will finally see a most important political mystery solved in this year's election. We will see if most women voters in America lean more liberal or more conservative on the range of issues facing them as voters. If they can identify with Sarah Palin...that is the question.

If Sarah Palin can prove herself to women voters across America as she has done already in Alaska, then McCain's decision to put her on the ticket will be seen as the sharp play call that made the difference in 2008. 

Time will tell.  At least we've got a good Vice Presidential candidates' debate to look forward to this fall.

(Image © McNamee/Getty)

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Comments

Allen

*GREAT* football analogy Stephen. Really, that's spot on.

I'll say this: I've been wrestling with whether or not to vote for McCain, about whom I have strong reservations, both in his constitutional commitment (his hallmark McCain-Feingold incumbent-protection legislation showing such contempt for free speech) and in his *seemingly* reckless and historically-uninformed desire to mix it up with any country any time (my goodness, didn't he demand that we put boots on the ground in the Balkans???).

I've strongly considered, and been leaning much toward, a vote for Bob Barr instead. Simply to, if nothing else, use my one tiny vote to slap the Republicans upside the head for showing so little disregard to conservatism. (And so much unReaganesque regard for uber-hawkishness.) If Barr's campaign were to cost the GOP the election, then all the better - the defeat would be well earned over the course of the past eight years. [...at which point it becomes obvious that Reagan-worshipping Allen Thornburgh thinks little of Reagan's 11th Commandment.]

I am now, with one fell swoop, leaning back strongly toward Palin-McCain. [Ooops, sorry, I mean McCain-Palin.] Gotta think some more, but my first reaction is a very positive one.

Breeders Unite!

Andy

Yup, a Hail Mary pass is wonderful when it works. I'm not a football stats guy, but the vast majority of HM's I've ever seen are usually batted down, underthrown, or even intercepted.

In McCain's favor, he has helped himself open the wallets of Christian conservatives, got Jim Dobson to flip-flop for him, and ensured that folks on your side of the line will help him in the GOTV effort.

But it may be that McCain has handed my side a wonderful tool to expand the women's vote even to an even greater lead than we enjoy right now. You can bet Emily's List and Hillary's organization are gearing up today, and millions of women is going to be bombarded with information about Palin's right-wing views for the next 10 weeks. For the vast majority of them, what they learn about Palin will not help McCain. And to paraphrase the old shampoo commercial, they'll tell ten friends, and they'll tell ten friends...

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