13th annual Municipal Finance Conference


13th annual Municipal Finance Conference



Sarah Palin: A Good Surprise

Ron Nessen
Ron Nessen Journalist in Residence

August 31, 2008

An old expression in politics asserts, “There is no such thing as a good surprise.” John McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate was a surprise; possibly, a rare good surprise.

The McCain-Palin ticket comes with a number of risks. But, overall, it provides the Republicans with more positives than negatives.

By choosing the first woman major party vice presidential nominee since Geraldine Ferraro in 1984—and the first woman Republican vice presidential nominee ever—the GOP is reaching out to, among others, disgruntled women supporters of Hillary Clinton.

And make no mistake about it, despite the show of unity at the Democrats’ Denver convention, there are still plenty of disgruntled women supporters of Hillary Clinton. At least some of these women may refocus their enthusiasm on Sarah Palin.

The choice of Palin also neutralizes Obama’s message that he and his running mate Joe Biden represent “change.” The Democratic ticket teams a presidential candidate with limited government experience, who espouses many traditional liberal proposals, with a vice presidential candidate who has been part of the Washington establishment for nearly 30 years.

The Republican ticket teams a presidential candidate sometimes referred to as a “maverick,” who often opposes his party’s positions on major issues, with a working mother who has experience actually running a large governmental unit very far from Washington.

In her campaign speeches, Palin no doubt will proclaim that she doesn’t just talk about supporting ordinary hard-working Americans struggling with the everyday problems of life, jobs, income, children, taxes, inflation, medical bills, personal loss, etc. She’s lived that life.

If biography is destiny, the Republicans ought to be pretty upbeat about the prospect of the McCain-Palin ticket.

Now for Palin’s major drawbacks as a running-mate:

• She may not be conservative enough for some Republicans.
• She may be too conservative for some women voters and young voters.
• She may not be a plausible successor to McCain.

The GOP presidential candidate just turned 72, one of the oldest men to run for the White House. He’s had health problems, including the after-effects of his Vietnam War injuries and a bout with skin cancer. The mortality tables suggest that his vice president might ascend to the Oval Office some time in the next four years.

So, would McCain’s running make mate a plausible president? Maybe. Barely.

She’s young – 44 years old and has no governing experience at the national level.

There is another old expression in politics: “Presidential candidates traditionally select the running mate who will lose them the least votes, not the running mate who will gain them the most votes.”

McCain may have just upset that adage.