How Palin Changes the Race
Sarah Palin. There has been little talk of anything else for the past week. If only to mute the buzz of the Obama campaign, which has clearly dominated the airwaves in the previous months, she has been a huge success. Last Friday morning, the talk was supposed to be of Barack Obama’s landmark acceptance speech the night before at Invesco Field in Denver. Alas, only the print media had that opportunity. Not long after the first editions were hitting the stands, the live media began covering a leak that Palin might be McCain’s surprise VP pick. From that point forward, Palin has been the center of media focus; and last night’s rocking acceptance speech, which energized the party faithful in a way McCain himself has failed to do since winning the primaries, only served to reinvigorate the frenzy over this hertofore unknown governor from Alaska.
The concurrence to be found among the punditry as they struggle to make sense of this all is only among the truly partisan. The widespread charges of inexperience and hypocrisy are offset by the irrepressible raving of the Right. And for these, nothing the Libs or media cynics say will dampen their enthusiasm. In fact, it will probably only serve to stoke that enthusiasm. This is probably the most important effect of the Palin choice, and most advantageous for McCain. This alone might be enough to make the choice of Palin a worthwhile gamble for McCain; but there’s more.
John McCain has struggled for months to win the affections of the GOP faithful. In that time, as I have wandered through the circles of staunch GOP activists and fundraisers, a consistent message stood out until last night–lukewarm enthusiasm bordering on apathy in some extreme cases. As McCain endeavored to counter this, he made some concessions to the Right that hurt his Maverick credentials. And in this he began to lose what made McCain the Maverick unique, and the hero of those who also praise the issue-before-party approach of Joe Lieberman.
Now, Palin has taken the pressure off McCain. In a few short days the GOP faithful have been brought back to a circa-2004 level of excitement. This will allow John to return to what he’s best at-mildy annoying his own party and winning the hearts of independents. Now John can be John. Palin has made that possible. In the hearts of Republicans, it seems that now Palin has also made victory possible. And in the meantime, a GOP star has been born.