by animated, Fri Aug 29, 2008 at 10:58:05 AM EDT
By picking Palin, McCain is signaling that he is going to jettison the experience argument and try to make the REPUBLICAN ticket the ticket of change. Except that for McCain, the key word will be "reform." McCain and Palin will try to own reform the same way the Obama campaign has owned change. And they are hoping the choice of Palin will reinforce that message, even if it's more in an optics way than in terms of actual facts. At the very least, it's designed to make it harder for Obama to tie McCain to Bush.
So how should Obama respond? The first response out of the gate has been to hit Palin on experience, noting the fact she will be a "heartbeat" away from the Presidency. That's a nice start, but not enough to close the deal. The good news, however, is that it nullifies that argument against Obama and makes him look experienced by comparison.
To really close the deal, the Obama campaign needs to take a page from the Republicans and go after McCain and Palin's strength, the theme of reform.
Of course, as usual in politics, both McCain and Sarah Palin's records of "reform" are highly overrated.
Most recently, Palin has been embroiled in a scandal in which her staff pushed for the firing of a state trooper who was involved in a custody battle with her sister.
But the true gold may be in Palin's ties to the notoriously corrupt Alaskan Republican party.
As Jonathan Singer notes on the front page, the Ted Stevens trial is coming up:
With the trial of Ted Stevens beginning next month, and a verdict likely in the case before election day, what happens to the Republican presidential ticket if and when the case comes to a close in mid- or late-October.
There was an extent to which John McCain had an opportunity to deflect criticism over the trial of Stevens, the longest serving Republican Senator in history, given the fact that the two haven't tended to be particularly close on Capitol Hill. However, by picking Sarah Palin, McCain is wholeheartedly embracing the Stevens machine, which is in tatters in Alaska following not only the indictment of the senior Senator but also the cases against and investigations into state legislators close to him (including his son Ben Stevens, the former President of the state Senate).
With Palin so closely aligned with Stevens -- and under an ethics investigation herself -- what happens if and when a verdict in the Stevens trial comes down, say, on October 20th, roughly two weeks from election day? What if it comes down on the Thursday before election day? I'm not sure we know the exact answer -- but I've got a feeling that such an outcome wouldn't be a great one for the McCain campaign.
The Obama campaign need to highlight what is happening in Alaska - and weave it into a storyline, which the public is already familiar with, of Republican corruption in Washington. Heck, it looks Cheney could even be involved. In doing so, they will expose how absurd it is that McCain and Palin are trying to run as "reformers."
There's plenty of dirt on McCain too - Keating Five might not be so relevant anymore, but Abramoff sure is.
Don't get me wrong, the Obama campaign should still try to link McCain to Bush. But the good news is they doesn't need to try to tie Palin to Bush - not directly. She already has a great tie-in in her own home state.