John McCain, after a lengthy tease of multiple candidates, including word early this morning on Fox and other cable news nets that Mitt Romney was the pick, selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his pick for vice president of the United States. McCain is a gambler, literally, and this is a big roll of the dice.
This is a bold gambit, intended in large measure to take the focus off Barack Obama's spectacular speech last night. Is Sarah Palin, who would be a heartbeat away from the presidency as vice president to John McCain, qualified to serve as replacement POTUS for the oldest president in American history, tortured for five-and-a-half years as POW?
Palin has served for a year-and-a-half as governor of Alaska, a state of less than 700,000. For perspective, that is a smaller population than contained in any of the 40 state senate districts in California.
Prior to that, she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, which Karl Rove early this morning on Fox News erroneously stated is the second largest city in Alaska.
Actually, it's not anywhere near that -- perhaps the Wizard of Oz should stay behind the curtain -- and is in fact a town of only about 8000 people. Palin, 44, is a favorite of the anti-abortion right-wing base, Rush Limbaugh's favorite, an alum of the University of Idaho who earned the Miss Congeniality title while competing for Miss Alaska. She is an advocate of drilling for oil everywhere, including in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve.
Today is the Vietnam War hero's -- that would be McCain, Palin has no national security background -- 72nd birthday. So Sarah Palin would be a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Here are 13 reasons why McCain picked Palin.
** A set of unimpressive choices. All the other potential Republican veeps were problematic.
** Distract the media. The McCain campaign is all about changing the narrative, as we have seen all week. Especially when Barack Obama is on a roll. As he obviously is after Obama's sensational acceptance speech last night at Denver's football stadium.
** The Change theme. John McCain doesn't like that he's lost the change mantle to Barack Obama. In a change election, which this is, change usually trumps experience. So we shouldn't expect to see too much more from Team McCain about how inexperienced Senator Obama is.
** A woman to appeal to Hillaryites. Palin is a gambit to appeal to disaffected women voters. A working mom with five kids, and so forth.
** The right-wing Republican base. Rush Limbaugh has been touting Sarah Palin for weeks. This means that McCain, who LImbaugh and others in the Talk Radio Wing of the party tried to destroy in the primaries, doesn't have to go on to his show to do the kow-tow. Bill Kristol is a big fan of Palin, too.
** Drill, Drill, Drill. Offshore oil drilling is a pie-in-the-sky panacea. But it's superficially popular. Palin is from the Big Drill State, and advocates drilling everywhere, including in the ANWR.
** The Shake It Up factor. Tellingly, the intro and extro music at this morning's rally in Dayton, Ohio unveiling the Palin selection was Van Halen's "Right Now," with the repeated refrain of "Turn this thing around."
** Hold Alaska. With Republican corruption scandals in Alaska and Obama's Western appeal, Obama is very close in the polls there. McCain was going to have to take the time-consuming and energy-draining step of campaigning there to hold on to the state's electoral votes.
** Mitt Romney. I think Romney, despite the deep enmity between he and McCain in the primaries, had emerged as the principal choice. He has his problems, but he's smart, accomplished, a pretty good debater and attack dog. But the how-many-houses-do-the-McCains-have gaffe hurt the super-rich Romney's chances badly.
** Tim Pawlenty. The Minnesota governor looked like the safe pick. Youthful, appealing, very conservative but not a flamer, a governor of a decent-sized state. But his entire experience is in local and state politics, and he matched up badly with geopolitical expert and political knife-fighter Joe Biden.
** Joe Lieberman. The 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, a true McCain pal, may have been McCain's real pick. But aside from his neoconservative foreign policy views, he is a corporate liberal Democrat. Getting the pro-choice/anti-global warming Lieberman through next week's Republican convention might have started a nuclear war in St. Paul. Lieberman would have presented a major problem for the Obama-Biden ticket.
** Tom Ridge. Also a McCain buddy. And former governor of Pennsylvania, which McCain badly wants to win, as well as ex-homeland security secretary. But he's pro-choice, too, and that's a huge problem for the right-wing base which still mistrusts McCain.
** Meg Whitman. The former eBay CEO's name was consistently floating around. She's a big fundraiser for McCain who has an interest in running for governor of California, which is a real longshot here as she's a mostly conservative Republican who is not an action movie star. McCain uses her as a talisman on economic issues. But she's a billionaire, and the how-many-houses controversy made her very problematic, as it did Romney.
So in the end, ironically, given his status as America's most anti-Russian politician, McCain is presenting a potential vice president from the only American state with a Russian name. Alyaska was part of Russia. But America bought it from the Russian Empire for $7 million in 1867.
We'll see if America buys this new product from the farthest Northwest.