November 24, 2008

Parting Thoughts on Palin

I actually buy the premise that Palin was among the best picks available to McCain given what he felt he needed to accomplish, namely consolidating the republican base behind him. Were I Palin, I think I would say to anyone, "hey, I did my job". She revved the base, raised lots of money and helped him close the chasmatic excitement gap.

But anybody who is being honest will admit that while Palin had appeal and telegenic, crowd pleasing charisma in spades, she lacked gravitas in equal amounts and the McCain campaign's poor handling of her only compounded the problem. By the time she had some level of sea legs about her, they had already allowed a media narrative to become established that she would not begin to shake until the end days of the campaign, by then far too late.

Further, what her bona fide political skill set is yet I think to really be proven out. Certainly Alaskans deemed her right for the times there and clearly she was a breath of fresh air over the old boys network that has been running Alaska since statehood. She balanced a budget during prosperous times when oil was trading above $100+ a barrel. Now her skills will really be put to the test as she has to manage the state on oil revenue way below her budget projections. How her term plays out in Alaska will clue us in on whether she is ready to run the nation.

For all the talk of her energy chops, we never heard word one of that on the campaign trail beyond the sloganizing. We never got one policy speech on energy to my knowledge. Considering that the McCain camp was billing her as an energy expert, I find it hard to believe they never bothered to deploy her for heavyweight duty on that topic unless the fact was that she could not credibly speak on it.

The McCain campaign clearly blew it in correctly deploying her charisma and base drawing powers against The One, but I think its also the case that she didn't demonstrate that she was very much deeper than the charisma either.

Exit comment: Its been said, fairly, that Palin was no more inexperienced or unready than Obama for the rigors of a national campaign or the responsibility of national service in the White House. Its a good comeback, but here's the thing; we had two years to watch Obama rise to power on a strategy and with a team he crafted and I have to tell you that I don't believe Sarah Palin is capable of doing what Obama has done. She has the potential to be the white, female Obama doppelganger on the right, but I don't think she has it in her. The cool thing about that supposition? We get to test it. She's got four years to build. By 2010, if she is going to be a player, we'll know.