I didn't find anything particularly of note in the Democratic National Convention that took place over the last week. I wasn't surprised by the pick of Joe Biden as Obama's VP nomination (and in fact originally believed Biden would be the nominee when the VP discussions first came up months ago, although I forgot about him when the media started focusing on other choices). I didn't watch any of the speeches, although I hear they were good.
On the other hand, I *was* surprised by McCain's VP announcement today. He chose Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to compliment his ticket, a move that has puzzled pretty much everyone (regardless of party or position). Alaska always votes Republican (their economy is based on oil production) and has only 3 electoral votes, so there is no advantage there for McCain. One of the McCain campaign's leading criticisms of Obama is his lack of experience (both in government in general and in Washington); Palin has been governor for less than two years and has no Washington experience at all, which severely undercuts McCain's criticism. She appears to bring very little to the ticket.
What I think McCain thinks she brings is a chance to snag some of the disenfranchised Hillary supporters (from what I've read, the campaign *really* wanted a woman candidate, with names like Carly Fiorina
and Meg Whitman
being tossed around). I don't think that will work (and if it does I'll be even more disappointed in the Hillary holdouts than I am now). Palin is pro-life and even belongs to an anti-abortion group. She supports teaching Creationism in public schools. She is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. She strongly supports opening up Alaskan wilderness preserves to oil drilling. She supports constitutional bans on gay marriage. These are all things that are essentially "anti-Hillary" (okay, maybe Hillary isn't pro-gay marriage, but she did vote against the federal bill to ban it), and I'm hoping the Hillary supporters realize this.
In the "positive" check box (not in the "reasons I think she's great" way, but in the "reasons she might help McCain" way), she's very telegenic. I've watched a couple of video interviews with her and her speaking style is much closer to Obama's than McCain's (more familiar and cross-generational; she even uses "it's cool!"). She might appeal to moderate "soccer moms" because she fits into that category, as well as undecided blue-collar males (not only because she's more attractive than the other three main figures but because she rides snowmobiles, likes to hunt and is married to a blue-collar fisherman). I'm guessing my father and brother will think she's fantastic. Her pro-life, pro-Creationism and anti-gay marriage stances will also win over at least some of the evangelical right that has so far kept its distance from McCain.
But in the long run I think McCain screwed up. If I'm right, the Hillary contingent won't fall for the ploy (they're adamant about not supporting Obama, but will they really vote for a candidate who opposes most of their core values just because she's a woman?). McCain's "experience" criticism has been severely weakened. And there is a whole range of criticism open to the Obama campaign regarding her lack of experience should McCain die in office and hand the presidency to her (a very real possibility, given McCain's age). She's also under investigation by the Alaska Legislature for a firing controversy
during her watch (which, to her credit, she has voluntarily complied with, although it's still going to come up repeatedly during the campaign). It's too early to call the race, but I'm not sure McCain's wild card is going to gain him that much.