Both the pros and the cons are pretty obvious. I’m going to focus on the cons, mostly because conservatives right now seem to be paying them less attention.
The pros: She’s a pro-life conservative reformer from outside Washington, and a woman. The pick signals a boldness and willingness to mix things up that the McCain campaign, like Republicans generally, need.
Inexperience. Palin has been governor for about two minutes. Thanks to McCain’s decision, Palin could be commander-in-chief next year. That may strike people as a reckless choice; it strikes me that way. And McCain’s age raised the stakes on this issue.
As a political matter, it undercuts the case against Obama. Conservatives are pointing out that it is tricky for the Obama campaign to raise the issue of her inexperience given his own, and note that the presidency matters more than the vice-presidency. But that gets things backward. To the extent the experience, qualifications, and national-security arguments are taken off the table, Obama wins.
And it’s not just foreign policy. Palin has no experience dealing with national domestic issues, either. (On the other hand, as Kate O’Beirne just told me, we know that Palin will be ready for that 3 a.m. phone call: She’ll already be up with her baby.)
Tokenism. Can anyone say with a straight face that Palin would have gotten picked if she were a man?
Compatibility. It doesn’t seem as though McCain knows Palin well. Do we have much reason to think they would work well together?
Debates. Maybe, as Jonah said the other day, Biden will look like a bully going up against her—and maybe she’ll shine. But I can think of a lot of other picks who would have been lower-risk.
I am not even sure that the pick will have quite the galvanizing effect on conservatives that it seems to be having now as it sinks in. The concerns I’ve mentioned here—about her readiness and her credentials—are the kind of thing that many conservative voters take seriously.
Now, as I said, there are pros too. Maybe Palin will be a terrific candidate and vice president. But let’s not underestimate the potential downside.