When Republican presidential candidate John McCain announced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate on Aug. 29, Alaskans issued a collective gasp of surprise. Now that the shock has worn off, has the so-called “Palin Factor” been a boon or a bane to the McCain campaign?
It seemed that immediately following Palin’s nomination, McCain was riding a wave of positive publicity that briefly eclipsed the Obama campaign. Very quickly, though, the spotlight became harsh. The law of averages has now taken effect, and people around the nation have stopped asking “Who’s Sarah?” and begun asking “Why Sarah?”
Nowhere is this trend more evident than here in the governor’s home state, where her nomination on the republican ticket has become a deeply divisive issue. As governor, Palin enjoyed approval ratings in the 80’s, but those numbers are falling swiftly into the 60’s as Alaskan democrats, independents, and a small percentage of republicans begin to question Palin’s feasibility on the national ticket.
I predict that Palin’s numbers, both at home and nationally, will continue to plummet in the weeks following the vice presidential debate.
Some of this backlash can be attributed to the popularity of the democratic candidate, who easily won the state caucuses, while McCain came in fourth in his party, behind even long-shot radical Ron Paul. Still, Alaska is handily republican, and I would have expected far more support for – and defense of – Palin than I’ve seen so far.
But Palin’s stances on any number of issues are quite polarizing. Global warming, evolution, endangered arctic species, game management, mineral management, and environmental safeguards are all topics on which she has received flak for her views.
And that’s when she’s clear about her stance and the facts surrounding it.
Although Palin is staunchly pro-life and seeks to overturn Roe v. Wade, in a recent interview with Katie Couric she couldn’t come up with a single other Supreme Court case. Not one. Admittedly, I might not be able to list any myself, but then again, I’m not running for the nation’s second highest office.
Then when asked if she believed there was an inherent right to privacy in the constitution, and was blatantly reminded that it was the basis of Roe v. Wade, Palin agreed. Is it her stance she’s unsure of, or does she just not understand what she’s being asked half the time? Naivety is a dangerous quality in a politician.
Palin’s failing answers to Couric’s simple questions were made even more embarrassing by her unwillingness to admit that she had no answer. This is becoming a pattern for Palin. It worked here in Alaska when she repeatedly referenced the fact that as governor she would have a cabinet of experts at her disposal, but there comes a point at which you expect a candidate to know something, and not just be something.
Following Palin’s logic, literally anyone could be an executive; the only requisites for success would be a good cabinet and decent judgment skills.
We all know that Palin is being paraded around as “Josephine Average”. The problem is that when we allow politicians to archetype themselves, we also allow them to remain fuzzy on specifics.
The last time we voted for an archetype it was in 2000, when we ushered in a certain Washington “outsider” who asked “Who would you rather have a beer with?”
I think that people have learned from that example, and especially now, expect to know how their candidate would react to a given situation. I think that Palin is less the maverick than a workable republican formula for success, and she just happened to fit McCain’s mold.
Previous tactics will fall short of success this year though.
The longer that the McCain camp parades Sarah Palin the idea, the more people are going to want to know about Sarah Palin the person and her stance on issues.
The only question will be if she can manage to invigorate more people with her positions than she alienates – and that prospect is looking slimmer daily.