Sarah Palin: a bold choice, or a desperate one?
So far, so good: McCain's VP pick has electrified conservatives.
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Early returns on the politics of the selection are good. Senator McCain's choice of Governor Palin, a feisty young reformer from small-town Alaska, performed the signal service of driving Barack Obama's acceptance speech out of the news within hours after it was delivered. Polls since Friday suggest that the shift in attention from Senator Obama to Palin probably restrained the bounce that Obama had generated at the Democratic convention.
Better yet, Palin has electrified the GOP base. McCain's campaign got a $7 million bounce in donations after she was picked, which shows how much conservatives like her and how muted their support for McCain had been. Many had the feeling that they were watching a rerun of Bob Dole's losing campaign and were unenthused about McCain's candidacy. Until now.
Palin's nomination comes, of course, on the heels of Hillary Clinton's narrow defeat at the hands of Obama. Notwithstanding whatever bitterness remains from that contest, it is doubtful that many Clinton Democrats will pull the lever for McCain, no matter who shares the ticket with him. But the remarkable outpouring of interest in Palin so far suggests that she could make a difference to independent and moderate women voters, a critical group that is up for grabs every four years.
A bit more subtle, but perhaps equally important, is Palin's appeal to blue-collar voters, who are likely to be intrigued by a former beauty queen and star athlete who knows her way around a commercial fishing boat, hunts moose, and is married to a champion snowmobile racer – Alaska's equivalent of a NASCAR driver.
McCain's choice was greeted with derision from the Obama campaign, which ridiculed Palin as "the former mayor of a town of 9,000" with "zero foreign policy experience." Of course, it didn't take long for people to notice that Palin's executive experience exceeded Obama's. As Rudy Giuliani put it Sunday on "Face the Nation": "She's vetoed legislation, she's taken on corruption in her party and won. She took on the oil companies and won. She administered a budget successfully." Obama, meanwhile, has "never run a city, he's never run a state, he's never run a business, he's never administered a payroll, he's never led people in crisis."