Palin speech changes the race
September 5, 2008
Source: AZ Central
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Until Wednesday night, many political professionals were whispering that there was a good chance that in picking Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain had lost the election. And some of them thought that with his last-minute, seemingly impulsive selection of a little-known and little-experienced governor he had lost his mind.
It’s as true on Thursday as it was on Wednesday that Palin is a risky pick. The public – and no doubt the McCain campaign as well – still doesn’t know what it doesn’t know about Palin, whose personal and public record in Alaska is still being raked by reporters and opposition researchers. But in the space of one 36-minute speech by Palin, McCain proved that his choice was not a lapse into temporary (or even permanent) insanity.
The speech’s political significance goes far beyond the fact that Palin showed herself capable of delivering a spirited reading of words that other people wrote. Just as Barack Obama’s 2004 convention speech transformed his career, Palin’s speech has the potential to transform the dynamic of this race in some ways that are obvious and some not.
It is hard to overstate how underwhelmed most Republicans are by McCain and the current cast of GOP leaders. This was especially true of social conservatives, many of them religious evangelicals, who are most thrilled by Palin.
Now that Palin has cleared the bar – truth be told, a fairly modest one – of delivering an effective speech, McCain has much more flexibility to follow his own instincts. He can play up reformist rhetoric and play down socially conservative ideology – the exact combination that in 2004 had some liberal commentators hoping McCain would abandon the GOP and go on the Democratic ticket.
Before Wednesday night, McCain was in big trouble when it comes to mobilizing conservative faithful. Now, Palin can help the party organize and turn out the same base of Christian evangelicals, Second Amendment supporters and abortion-rights opponents that proved instrumental to the George W. Bush victories.
Before Wednesday night, McCain had little room for error with the right. They measured every word and made him pay for straying too far on the issues they care most about. Now, McCain can stretch and twist like a yoga instructor.
Palin hasn’t seen the last of stories looking for contradictions or flaws in her record or suggesting that her accomplishments or intellect are as substantial as a souffle. But by presenting an engaging side of herself and her family, she ensured that those stories, written mainly by political and investigative reporters, will be countered by other stories written mainly by lifestyle reporters. People magazine reporters and bookers for The View and Oprah will be watching Palin with a lot more interest than they will be watching Joe Biden.
In Palin’s own way, her story and rapid rise are as arresting to the mass audience as Obama’s.
And many voters in these big audiences likely will swoon for a telegenic hockey mom who eats moose she kills herself. You can’t make this stuff up.
Her story is made for TV, glossy mags and the big screen.
None of this proves she understands the complexities of world threats or can endure the stress of office. But she at least gets more time to make her case.
Before Wednesday night, she was only one or two news cycles away from irretrievably losing control of her image.
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