Why did McCain pick Sarah Palin?

September 12, 2008 at 5:07 pm 6 comments

Welcome to my very first post! “Overlapped” is a blog that combines school and fun, and examines issues in our world today. Each week I’ll be researching a question and blogging an answer to it. Are you ready?

Today’s Million-Dollar Question: Why did McCain pick Sarah Palin as his running mate?

I realize this is, perhaps, a few weeks late. The hype and attention has now shifted to campaign policies and media interviews. But with the benefit of a few weeks’ hindsight, perhaps it will help us get at the crux of the matter more clearly. What was McCain’s motive in picking this little-known governor of a little-publicized state? What does she bring to the ticket that the other candidates like Romney didn’t?

At the time of the nomination, the GOP candidate’s greatest need was to inject a shot of adrenaline into the conservative base. Social conservatives were still dubious about the senator with a history of independence and crossing party lines. On the hot-button issue of abortion, for instance, he had a perfect voting record but still aroused suspicion that he would stick to it. Before he can try to gather votes from straying democrats or independents, he first needs to lock up his own party’s base, and some of those supporters were less than enthusiastic.

With the pick of Sarah Palin, he ran into several risks. For one, she could throw off his campaign against Senator Obama because she is also inexperienced in foreign policy issues. She could really blow it during the campaign or interviews with lack of knowledge. Another unexpected twist, according to the Wall Street Journal, was thrown into the strategy of portraying the Democratic candidate as nothing more than a celebrity, with no substance behind the powerful oratory. Palin has been generating some star-power herself.

But at the heart of the matter, these are the important things that Palin brings to the ticket. For one, she is a staunch conservative with strong views on important social conservative issues like abortion, which the other candidates on the short list were not. She could (and did) unite the conservative base with energy McCain could not generate, and that frees him up to campaign among the independents.

Most importantly, the themes of the election are now about change and reform. Sarah Palin can reinforce McCain’s image as an “independent shaker”, and truly has a history of reform. And no one can accuse her of being one of the “Washington elitist” politicians who has, perhaps, been tainted by spending her whole life in the capitol politics. Instead, she is a refreshingly real woman with no qualms of shaking up the status quo. Her image is one of a genuine and honest person in-touch with reality instead of “some vague politician.” As we have seen, this choice has been working.

And while the attention that would instantly focus on the Republican party with this unexpected choice was not the primary motivation for picking her, it is not something to be ignored. She stirred the ticket, threw a curve ball at the Democrats, and may be the first woman ever elected vice-president. She can capitalize on some of the Hillary supporters, although the staunch feminists will never go for her. But even losing a small percentage of those voters could hurt Obama in the election.

According to FOXNews, “Palin brings to the ticket a resume that challenges conventional wisdom while it plays into the party’s conservative base.”

Peggy Noonan, President Reagan’s speechwriter, prophesied that the unorthodox pick would either be a huge advantage or a huge disadvantage to the McCain campaign. The results of Sarah Palin’s nomination would not be neutral. And so far, it seems to be the energizing advantage that was needed. But we shall have to wait until November to see if it worked.


Entry filed under: Campaign 2008, Politics.

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jessina  |  September 12, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    I like your blog, Megan! Very cute layout…did you design it yourself? And I agree…the Republicans majorly needed enthusiasm and Palin definitely brought it. You stated your opinion about why you thought McCain chose her, but do you like her? =)

  • 2. Gov83  |  September 13, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Interesting stuff. The pick might also have something to do with her small town roots and ability to reach rural districts, a point I think you allude to. Why do the dems hate her so much? Why is it that Obama and the Dem spokesmen seem more focused on Palin than McCain? Since you seem to have such good political instincts, I’d be interested in your thoughts on that question, “cause it has me stumped.

  • 3. overlapped  |  September 13, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Jessina: Yep, I did design the top picture/layout thingie myself. Took forever, and I couldn’t figure out how to outsmart Photoshop, but I finally managed to work with it. 🙂 And yes, I do personally like Sarah Palin.

    Gov83: Great questions! I think one reason the Dems hate Palin is because she’s the one with the “star power” in this campaign. While she won’t be president, she’s going to be responsible for an awful lot of the votes. And since she’s burst onto the scene out of the blue, all the media attention is now in the Republican camp, whereas Obama has previously held it. If they can dig up some dirt on Palin, they might neutralize her effect a little.

    A far greater reason, however, is because 1) she’s young, and 2) she’s a woman. Because she’s a 44-year old star, there’s no shot that presidential campaigns have seen the last of her. Win or lose, she’s coming back on her own, and that means that she’ll continue to be a real threat to the Democrats. (And if McCain wins, there may be another Obama/Palin face-off in the future). Secondly, she’s threatening one of the chief democratic bases: women. And the Democrats see their image as the one most in touch with the people, and the most liberal in terms of minorities. They don’t like Republicans stealing their thunder and electing a woman, when they are the party that’s supposed to be doing that.

    And, to quote Dick Morris, she’s a threat because “she’s not popular because she’s a radical feminist or pro-choice advocate. It’s because she understands what it’s like to be a woman in 21st century America.” And she promises to bring a dose of that reality to the Washington elite.

  • 4. Gov83  |  September 13, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    You’re all over it! SO what should the dems do? Go after her and try to bring her down, ignore her, or something else?

  • 5. overlapped  |  September 15, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    That’s a good question, especially for someone who doesn’t pretend to be a political strategist. 🙂 From the little I’ve seen, it sounds like the democrats are hurting themselves by attacking Palin so vigorously. People are wondering what’s the matter with them that they’re going after the vp more than the actual presidential candidate, and they might be alienating some of their supporters, such as the women whose vote they desperately need, by going after her so violently. It seems to me it might be wiser to ignore her a little bit more and try to let the fire cool down instead of flaming it, and try to treat her as any vp candidate instead.

  • 6. gov83  |  September 15, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    Sounds lika a good idea. And Obama must be reading your blog. He hasn’t mentioned Palin in days and I bet he won’t anytime soon.


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