For those few of us who follow politics closely, there was surprise, but certainly no shock in the choice of Palin. In June, I wrote an article about Palin being vetted and continually stated that choosing Palin would be a stroke of genius. Bill Kristol, nearly every night for four months, on Fox News, sent a message that McCain should choose Palin, often times to chuckles from the other Pundits. McCain's choice in Palin, was a surprise, but not a shock and moreover will prove to put the Obama Campaign in the proverbial corner.
Obama did not choose Hillary Clinton for the VP slot, simply because he genuinely feels, as he has continually stated on the campaign trail, that John McCain is a closet sexist; opposed to equal pay and equal rights for women. Obama, the DNC, and their surrogates simply do not understand McCain and fully expected this election to be one of four men, one of which carried certain historical implications. The panic and quick negative attacks on Palin coming from the Obama campaign were the result of a campaign that believes their own hate-filled rhetoric and is genuinely angry that once again they were out-maneuvered by the McCain camp.
So why will Palin's VP selection become a problem for the Obama Campaign??
Why is Obama now backed into a corner??
First: The announcement, and genius behind the announcement, of McCain's selection dominated the headlines, media and Internet chatter yesterday. On a morning, in which Obama's nomination was expected to reach epic media proportions, McCain successfully stole the show. We will see what the implications are by the middle of the week, but if McCain's move halted or limited Obama's bump, then he is in trouble. Historically, Democratic Conventions have yielded a 15-16 point bump in the days after the nomination, yet if Obama's bump is limited and he never breaks the 50% barrier, then he is in deep trouble. This convention represented Obama's last best opportunity for a large bump, one that he never received following the primaries, Hillarys endorsement, his European vacation or announcement of his VP choice. If he cannot meet high expectations for a bump now, he has lost his best opportunity.
Second: The Heartland's Vision Of The American Dream. Sarah Palin brings to the table something that none of the other 3 candidates have: she truly represents what the silent majority of this nation views as the American Dream. Once you leave Urban areas of the East and West coast and you enter into the Rust Belt and Heartland of this nation, views change drastically. It is in the heartland of this nation where elections are decided, their views of the American Dream are significantly different than in the beltway or east or left coast; the views of the American Dream are much more traditional and Palin represents that tradition. The problem for Obama is that in order to overcome Palin, they must paint her as inexperienced. As a result, her biography will come to the forefront of every families table. Palin is a strong, attractive, middle class female, a mother of 5, and has risen from her Union-based middle-class roots to become the vice-Presidential nominee.
As America comes to know her they will learn about the Daughter of a dedicated teacher and the schools secretary. As a high-school basketball standout and Miss Congeniality in the Miss Alaska pageant she laid the groundwork for her popularity and success. She worked as a journalist, gave up her career to manage a fishery, became a devoted wife and devoted mother. Putting her family first, she coached sports teams, was an active manager in the schools PTA and eventually became a city council member, before moving on to become a mayor. When she ran for the Governor, she overcame her rival, a former Governor whose experience far outweighed her own. Yet, she won, carried out her message of reform; took on the Oil companies, corruption that existed within her own party and even the Federal Government and Senator Ted Stevens. She has raised 5 children, the youngest of which has Down's Syndrome, and after 2 years as Governor has an unheard of 80% approval rating. This is the biography that the heartland will connect with and the problem with Obama's attacks on her background.
Middle class Americans, regardless of how hard Obama worked, cannot and will not relate to someone who attended Harvard and Columbia, worked as a community organizer and has since pursued ever-increasing political power. To the heartland and middle class America, Palin represents someone who shares their devotion to family, has repeatedly succeeded in every pursuit she has undertaken, is the only candidate to actually managed within the private-sector and a small business, is a reformer, a sports enthusiast, and everything that their vision of the American Dream contains. Trust me, the more America learns of Sarah Palin, the more the so called "Soccer Mom", "Blue Collar", "Union Working", "Friday Night Football", "Apple Pie", "Middle Class" silent majority will come to look up to her. Obama, Biden, and their surrogates will never be able to overcome this perception and it will cost them when they attack her.
Third: Experience. It has already started, the attacks that she is "just a heartbeat away" and has no experience. But these attacks by the Obama campaign will ultimately not work. Why??
Simply put, every time that the Obama campaign questions her experience, it will inevitably lead to the questioning of his. For 17 months, and rightfully so, Obama has tried to overcome and avoid the experience issue. He has a ran on a campaign of change, downplaying the value of experience; but as they discuss Palin's "experience" they will only hurt themselves. After all, Palin is not a Presidential Candidate and Obama is. This is a huge benefit for McCain, he has painted the Obama campaign in a corner, because they cannot exploit Palin's inexperience without comparing it to his own; and if they try, they will have to make the argument that her private sector and family oriented successes do not matter, which ultimately leads to her biography and life story.
Fourth: Painting Her As A Radical. This has already started as well, and again it will not work. They will try to paint Palin as a right-wing radical and it has already started. But Palin has a record of genuine bi-partisanship and reform, something Obama does not have. She and the McCain campaign can point to 2 things: An 80% Approval Rating and her crackdown on corruption with Alaska's Republican Party. When the left attacks Palin, their appeals will only be heard by the people who have already drawn that conclusion; for the rest of America, who see a strong, well-spoken, and attractive Female, they won't buy it because her Rhetoric and Actions speak differently. Inevitably, painting her as a neo-con will lead back to her biography and life story.
Fifth: To Many Attacks. This will be the biggest problem for the Obama campaign and his supporters. If they attack Palin they will drive a wedge between temselves and both the Silent Majority of America and Clinton Supporters who faced relentless attacks and want reform within their own party.
For Clinton supporters, there are two issues in this election. First, they have seen corruption and manipulation of untold proportions within their own party and they want reform, this the Obama campaign will never understand. Secondly, they have seen a double standard by which they have been continuously painted as bitter, racist women, who in reality saw a level of misogyny in the primaries that was unheard of. The Obama campaign has decided that the best way to win back these votes was by attacking McCain as a sexist who did not support equal pay for Women. Yet, the selection of Palin, absolutely undermines that ridiculous attack; and despite policy differences, if the Obama campaign continues to attack Palin, it will stir up the memories of the Obama campaign's misongynistic attacks upon Hillary and drive Clinton voters away. This is the simple truth and there is no one who can deny it.
For the Silent Majority, the Palin family represents their own. These are the families in the heartland which work hard all week, put their family first and who see in the Palin family, traditional values and the traditional view of the American dream. The more the Obama campaign attacks Palin, the more the families of the rust belt and heartland will see this as an attack on their own family and it will drive them away. This is the simple truth and there is no one who can genuinely deny it.
These are the reasons why McCain's selection is phenomenal and will paint the Obama campaign into the proverbial corner. Americans vote for presidential candidates and their running mates based in a large part on likability. In this election, they see three candidates in Biden, Obama and even McCain who are all wealthy Senators, who all came from humble beginnings but who they cannot quite relate with. Sarah Palin and her family, represent the traditional view of the "American Dream", with humble beginnings, a uniquely middle-class lifestyle, a union based family, the PTA members next door, the girl next door, the outdoor enthusiasts, and every other cliche that you can use. The Obama campaign will attack Palin, and these attacks will prove to be the campaign's greatest strategic failure.
August 30th, 2008
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