Finally then, after several days of spotlight-stealing teases, McCain has named his vice presidential nominee.
Ladies and gentlemen meet Sarah Palin.
The press seem to be picking up the fact that she was once runner up for Miss Alaska, but there’s a lot more to her than that.
She’s 44, just over a year into her first term as Governor of Alaska and she’s everything a Republican could want in a woman – she’s fiercly pro-life, a lifetime member of the NRA, and even includes hunting and eating moose-burgers in her hobbies.
In her short time in politics she’s already got a reputation as a fierce reformer. She blew the whistle of Republican corruption, sold the Governorship’s private jet on her first day in office and has passed agressive ethics reform legislation.
In fact, she’s pretty similar to Obama in terms of experience and the legislation she’s passed.
There’s one school of thought that says that Palin’s inexperience is going to mean McCain can no longer attack Obama as inexperienced.
Indeed, that’s the main reason she was relatively overlooked by the press – Romney, Pawlenty, Ridge and Crist was the most widely advertised shortlist.
It’s not actually an argument I fully buy. Yes, Vice President is one a heartbeat away from the Presidency itself (and in McCain’s case that’s a particularly legitimate concern given that today is his 72nd birthday), but there’s still a big difference between who is at the top of the ticket and who is at the bottom. Obama started running for President 18 months after becoming a Senator, Palin is just a running mate. In the same way that Biden shores up Obama’s foreign policy credentials, McCain shores up Palin’s relative inexperience.
More importantly, in picking Sarah Palin, McCain appears to be changing the whole campaign narrative; he’s redefining the whole reason to put a cross next to his name on the ballot come November 4. McCain is casting himself as the maverick, a reformer who is going to bring four more years of Bush policies. It’s a narrative that’s going to require a redrawing of Obama’s attempts to pain McCain as “McSame.”
Picking Palin is not only a bold attempt to appeal to disaffected Clinton voters, and women generally (though judging from the initial reaction on the web that’s not going to work so well – she’s no Hillary Clinton, not least because she is opposed to abortion; it’s also a bold attempt to redraw the race.
She’s everything Obama’s Biden pick isn’t. She’s unconventional, unexpected, a genuine Washington outsider, a reformer. And whilst that brings flipsides too – she has zero foreign policy experience and we’ve no idea how she’s going to perform against Biden in the veep debate – overall I think it’s an exciting and very brave pick.
Last night Obama brought out some tough talk to challenge McCain’s solid Republican policies. From tonight, he’s going to have to fight to keep hold of the ‘change’ brand.