29 August 2008

Assessing the Palin Scene

Yglesias passes along this (preposterous) nugget: McCain has been on the campaign trail longer than Palin has been governor.

Are you kidding me? She's been on the city council, the mayor of a small town, and governor for half a term. The gimmick is to peel off disgruntled Hillary voters and undecided married women, but please. McCain: "She's exactly who I need, she's exactly who this country needs, to help me fight the same old Washington politics of 'me first' and 'country second.'"

I've really tried to be cautious about this all day. My initial impression is that she shows up well and speaks very well. She's likable, and as the old boys will no doubt say, she's got pluck. She seems like a scrapper, though I find it hard to believe that she'll be well enough briefed not to flub some big ones. Joe Biden will have to tread carefully so as not to be perceived as condescending, but I'm already licking my chops at the prospect of hearing "And you madam are no Hillary Clinton!"

To suggest that Clinton supporters should be attracted to this pick is insulting. Clinton herself is in a prime position to live up to her word to get Barack Obama elected and take on Palin in a no-holds-barred-this-ain't-a-beauty-contest public discussion of the complex challenges the country faces today. If the McCain camp thinks that Palin can really hold her own against the withering litany of Democratic arguments against her, then Schmidt & Co. have either vetted their candidate extremely well or not nearly well enough.

The more I read and listen, the more ridiculous it all gets. The danger, however, is to remember that the average voter is not very well informed. If the media give McCain/Palin a pass, if all the nuance gets dropped from the media message and Palin gets the shot to simply appeal to voters, then this could just slip on by and shock us all. I'm inclined to think the opposite is more likely and that the rocket will break apart as it enters the atmosphere. Especially after my exposure to the campaign machine this week in Denver. David Plouffe comes off as the real deal, somebody who knows his stuff. Obama himself is known to run a tight strategy, control the message, stick to the plan. And we don't have to discuss his political intelligence or his rhetorical skill. David Axelrod (whom I did not see in person) is highly regarded as a political strategist--the general you want on the field. Howard Dean and the DNC appear poised to complement the campaign in every necessary way (especially since the Obama camp effectively controls the DNC at this point). And Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore and of course Joe Biden appear ready to make the public appearances that go along with this campaign and to actually enjoy themselves in the process. All told, this team simply will not miss the opportunity take apart the McCain/Palin agenda, starting with the very decision to pick Palin. But they've got to make it stick, and if 2000 and 2004 taught us anything its that there's never a sure thing.

All that, and we haven't even seen yet how the Obama camp will manage the ongoing investigation into Palin's possible abuse of power in AK. This is gonna get interesting.