It is painfully (or perhaps gleefully) obvious to me that I couldn’t have been much more mistaken about the political effect of Sarah Palin. I had suggested the experience issue would likely be a net negative, but I hadn’t anticipated just how badly the Obama campaign would misplay its hand. The campaign has made her the focus of all of its less than considerable firepower. Obama feels it necessary to highlight his inexperience in comparison to hers, but the comparison only reinforces his weakness, as her experience is vastly more relevant to serving as Vice President than his is to serving as President. Her record speaks to principled conservatism, which has made her all the more attractive to the base and answered major concerns about whether John McCain cares about the base at all. And while I acknowledged she was a charismatic person with a good story to tell, I had no idea that she could tell it so well.
In a normal election year, her short track record as governor might be a political liability, but this has never had the makings of a normal election year. I still would like to see a longer track record of accomplishment at the state level, answering the myriad of challenges a full term governor might see. (My concern, by the way, has never been about experience in Washington. An accomplished governor has more relevant experience than a U.S. Senator any day, given the need for executive decision-making ability). But it is pretty obvious to me that, as a political play, it has thus far been a game changing one. I stand by my characterization of the pick as a bit of a Hail Mary pass, but Doug Flutie will tell you that Hail Mary passes are glorious when they connect. Mea culpa, Senator McCain.