About the loneliest precinct in the GOP these days is the one reserved for troublesome Republicans who think Gov. Sarah Palin was a poor VP choice, even after The Speech. Well, here I am. Hello? Anybody else? Wow, there is a big echo in here…
In my postings here and my appearances on NBC I’ve made the case that as far as helping John McCain win the election is concerned, the choice of Gov. Sarah Palin is a mixed bag. McCain get’s a fellow reformer, but also pays the very heavy price of making a pick I think will only play well among the Republican base he already has. (In an private conversation fragment that landed on the Internet due to a open MSNBC microphone, I made my grouchy feelings about the base centered strategy Palin represents clear in a blunt manner. Sorry Sarah, it’s nothing personal. It’s the just the politics of the choice that I don’t like.)
Today, after Gov. Palin’s much applauded speech, my doubts remain. Again, it’s not that I don’t find her appealing. I like what I see in her fine family. I like that Gov. Palin fought corruption in Alaska. I like her Mom Goes to Juneau bio (except for the stuff about newly elected Mayor Palin muscling the local librarian a bit to consider banning some books). I think I would have probably voted for her to be my Governor if I had some enemies to escape and had suddenly fled to Alaska. I’ll even say that as a red blooded and politically incorrect American male, I really like the idea that Palin could, if she felt like it, set a world wide pay per view box office record by stripping down to a wolf-fur bikini, running outside in the snow and effortlessly killing a caribou – or Joe Biden — with her bare hands. (Save the howling protest emails about sexism; it’s just a JOKE. Write the Wasilla librarian if you want it banned.)
What I don’t like is the effect I think Palin will ultimately have on the ticket. With all her charm, she is still a pick aimed squarely at the Republican base. In a high turnout Presidential year, I am not worried about turning out the base. I’m worried about everybody else we need to win and I fear that among those voters, Sarah Palin will be a dud.
I know, I know, she’s a “hockey mom” and through the magic of identity politics she is going to make female voters swarm across party lines in numbers that Gerry Ferraro never dreamed of since this identity politics hokum is only a good idea that is certain to work when, um, we Republicans try to do it.
Instead, I think she’ll ultimately be a polarizer. After last night’s smash, Republicans are in deep love. Nothing thrills ‘em like a good “us vs. them” speech. But I’d guess that most Democrats had the opposite reaction. In a year where the Democrat generic numbers are 10+ points better than the Republican, I don’t like the math of a strategy that just polarized the election along party base lines. Among the vital sliver of voters in the middle, I think Palin’s rock solid social conservatism will be a turn off. And while voters may value vision over experience, Palin’s inexperience is a weakness, denying McCain an argument that has been helping him against Obama. It’s not a real poll and therefore should be taken with an Alaska sized boulder of salt, but the Detroit Free Press asked a few swing voters to watch Gov. Palin’s speech and then opine. You can read their reactions here
So that’s my concern with Sarah Palin. Interesting person, bad strategic choice to win the election. I’ve sure been wrong before and perhaps I’m wrong this time. Some smart pols I respect think she’ll be a real help. We’ll know when we count the votes.