Free-Floating Hostility

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Palin 2012 And The Changing Vice Presidency

Andrew Sullivan linked to this story from the Times of London, a discussion of internal tensions within the McCain campaign right now. Sarah Palin -- parroting a widely held view in the batshit insane right-wing blogosphere -- wants to keep hitting Obama on his past associations. McCain and his closest aides, meanwhile, perhaps startled by the ugliness they've seen at their rallies in the past couple days now are thinking it might be better to lose with honor rather than go down the slash-and-burn road with no promise of success. That these tensions are appearing in print proves two things
  1. The internal fissures in the McCain Campaign are starting show. Leaks appear in creaky ships.
  2. Sarah Palin is reading the same polls at the rest of us. Instead of playing until the final whistle, she's already beginning her campaign for the 2012 nomination by distancing herself from McCain's flawed gameplan.
It was no secret that the holes in McCain's appeal were always going to make this an uphill battle for him. His three months of sustained character assassination on Obama in July and August were enough to cut Obama's polling lead nationally from 4 to about 1. McCain's only polling lead during the fall election cycle came following his convention. I believe this lead was the normal convention bounce amplified some by the return of the far-right conservatives that loved them some Sarah Palin. And it's clearly not over yet -- the difference in the way the polls look today compared to three weeks ago should tell us that. But Sullivan comes to the conclusion that, if things progress as they appear to be, will be part of the McCain campaign post-mortem. "You can ride this kind of tiger only so long before it eats you as well." Palin may have saved McCain in September, but she's not doing him any favors in October.

The belief here is that the moment she received the credit for fueling McCain's convention bounce, her interests diverged from McCain's. In the space of a week in St. Paul she became the leader of the social conservative wing of the Republican Party. But if McCain won, she would be Vice President. In 2012 or 2016, she wouldn't be able to run against Washington (part of her appeal) and she would be tied to the McCain record for better of for worse. Given the challenges of the next few years and the make-up of Congress, one wonders whether President McCain could really accomplish much worth building a campaign around. Much as Al Gore couldn't run far enough away from Clinton's blow jobs to win in the electoral college, Palin's job would be a lot more difficult. If McCain loses she goes back to Alaska with a national profile, a national base of support and the ability to raise massive sums of money. A couple of months at policy camp to make her more conversant in national issues and poof, she's ready for 2012 or 2016.

In the era of the permanent campaign, the vice presidency is now a lifetime achievement award rather than a mid-career move. First is the question of "Doing no harm to a ticket." Palin's selection started a frenzy of digging into her background. Given the proliferation of media and the ease of publishing one's thoughts (ahem) that's a lot of people asking questions. Her allies may claim that she was subjected to a level of scrutiny not given to Obama. This is bullshit. The problem is diffusion. Obama's scrutiny came over the course of this endless campaign. That's 19 months versus six weeks. Instead of things coming out gradually they came out all at once.

Further, nothing is less exciting than a known pick. If a Presidential candidate is relying on his or her Veep to create energy, he or she has massive problems. Joe Biden had been vetted by the media during his time in Washington and there were no surprises on the campaign trail. He was like Dick Cheney in that (and only that) regard. We had no way of really knowing (or maybe we did) just how crazy Cheney would turn out to be. Further, Cheney didn't want to be President. His entire agenda was predicated on being in power, so he did what he had to do to help Bush win. Incidentally, one could argue that this same reality helped doom the Kerry/Edwards ticket. So perhaps this is the one place where George W's fanatic demand for loyalty helped him. Obama's reasoning is different; I don't believe he's scared of smart people. But Biden will be 73 in 2016, which means he may not be spending the next eight years (knock wood) decorating the Oval Office in his head.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at October 15, 2008 12:24 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Glad to see Hostility back on the web.

    Instant polling analysis: Among white pure independents, 40% claim to be undecided and were almost certainly Bush voters. But Obama over the last cycle gained from 21 to 30%, and McCain fell from 37 to 28% (with undecided rate about the same, suggesting to me that some of the McCain supporters became undecided and some undecided decided).

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