Many commentators in the news are calling John McCain’s VP selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as a “game-changer” (1). Taking a casual look over Palin’s resume confirms that she potentially brings to the campaign many valuable assets.
First, she is a Governor rather than a Senator. This brings to the ticket the experience of an Executive that neither McCain nor the Democratic ticket possess. It also gives the republican ticket a historical advantage in the race considering the last winning ticket to have two Senators as running mates was the 1960’s Kennedy-Johnson ticket (2).
Second, Palin brings strong conservative credentials to the ticket. This has the potential for giving the Republican ticket the broadest ideological appeal of the election. Currently the Democratic ticket comprises the no.1 and no.3 most liberal ranked members of the Senate respectively (3), which could hurt its appeal to moderate voters. Palin can easily appeal to the right of the political spectrum while McCain to moderate voters.
Third, McCain’s selection presents voters with a historical ticket alternative. Until this point only the Democratic ticket could claim to be a potentially historical first if elected in November. Now the Republican ticket if elected in the fall would also be a first in American politics, the first female Vice President. This could generate broader appeal for the Republican ticket among voting women in America. It also could present disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters with even more reason to support McCain. With Clinton now out of the race, McCain is airing commercials that showing former Clinton supporters expressing their support for McCain over Obama.
Fourth, it presents McCain with an increased money flow. A TIME blog (4) reported that by 6pm after Palin’s selection that McCain’s campaign received 3 million dollars in contributions. It is also being reported that McCain’s contributions experienced an overall 7 million dollar bump in campaign contribution funds since the announcement (5).
Fifth, Palin is relatively unknown to the general public. CNN (6) is currently reporting that “4 in 10 Americans are not familiar with Palin; 38 percent of those questioned viewed her favorably and 21 percent unfavorably.” With such low unfavorable numbers, the McCain campaign has plenty of room to positively develop the voter’s knowledge of Palin.
Among the assets Palin brings to the ticket, there are a few potential drawbacks she could also bring.
First, some news sources have already been commentating on her relatively short time in politics. Despite this, the only person in this political race with potentially less experience than Palin is Barack Obama himself. With a recent commercial avoiding to mention Palin by name, Obama’s camp seems painfully aware of this weakness (7).
Second, there is currently an ethical issue related to Palin. TIME wrote that a legislative panel recently launched an “investigation to determine whether Palin abused her influence by attempting to get her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper.” (8)
Third, the news of Palin’s unwed daughter Bristol’s pregnancy. With many of the prominent religious right coming to the support of Palin, it appears that right of center voters still strongly support her selection despite the revelation of Bristol’s pregnancy. It will be the reactions of the middle of the road voters who McCain will need to monitor closely.
Fourth and probably most importantly, her addition to the ticket may raise public expectations of McCain to a level he may find hard to maintain. Similar to George W. Bush during the 2000 election, people have expected less of McCain and his campaign (9). And it appears that he has profited from this environment of low expectations. First, he has been able to remain competitive with Obama’s campaign that is currently garnering high expectations from the public. Second, his recent performance at Saddleback exceeded expectations while Obama, disappointed. And now, McCain’s selection of Palin seems to have again exceeded the expectations of the public.
It appears that she indeed could potentially be a game-changer in a race that has appeared a dead heat. Until the revelation of Bistol’s pregnancy, it appeared that McCain needed to be careful that Palin’s choice as VP did not raise the level of expectations beyond his ability to deliver. This may still be a concern once Bristol’s pregnancy falls behind the fold of the newspapers. Only time will tell whether Palin truly is the running mate John McCain needs.
1 – Levs, J. (2008). Palin: Pioneer, maverick — and now game-changer.
2- Homnick, J. (2008). Top 10 Reasons Biden is Oh-bombing.
3- National Journal. (2007). National Journal’s 2007 Vote Ratings.
4- Halperin, M. (2008). Palin=$.
5- Mosk, M. (2008). McCain Gets $7 Million Bounce from Palin Pick.
6- Steinhauser, P., & Silverleib, A. (2008). Poll shows no convention bounce for Obama.
7- CNN. (2008). Obama ad on Palin avoids criticism, her name.
8- Sharples, T. (2008). 10 Facts About Sarah Palin.
9- Dunn, C. (2007). The seven laws of presidential leadership: An introduction to the American Presidency. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.