by Josh Orton, Fri Aug 29, 2008 at 05:49:40 PM EDT
The first time I saw McCain's campaign use the slogan "Country First," I assumed it was simply another cliche Republican attempt to claim the mantle of patriotism and passively indict Democrats as America-haters.
And while I'm sure the patriotism implication is real, I'm starting to think there's a second strategy at play behind the slogan. The Republican brand is in the gutter. Party ID leans Dem by a lopsided margin. GOP candidates won't go near St. Paul this week. Bush's approval is in the tank.
We know McCain can't run just as a Republican on Republican principles; he has to re-claim his "maverick" brand and fuzz the contrast between himself and Obama as much as possible. Picking Palin, a woman who will (falsely) claim reformer credentials, helps that fuzz. And with a rather dynamic personal story, Palin reinforces the media focus on personality-over-policy that McCain desperately wants. A "celebrity" she is not.
There will be more indications of this McCain makeover. If you need any more evidence of McCain's fuzzing his party identity and policy deficit, re-watch Palin's appropriation of Hillary Clinton's groundbreaking campaign legacy from this morning: party and policy differences be damned...Palin's a woman too!
So a heads-up: the "Country First" slogan on McCain's podium this morning may start carrying the unwritten subtext "before party."