The Palin Factor

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Below is a guest blog entry by economist and MoJo author Nomi Prins:

Election campaigning is about winning. Winning is about not underestimating your opponent or how their choices might impact voters outside the pundit-belt. So, perhaps Alaska Governor Sarah Palin wouldn’t have been McCain’s first choice for vice president if there weren’t any lingering hard feelings about Hillary’s campaign or lack of consideration for the VP slot. Or perhaps Palin would have been selected anyway.

Whatever the case, the Democrats are in a tough position after Obama’s electrifying speech. It would be as hypocritical for them to attack Palin’s experience level as it is for McCain to have selected her after dissing Obama’s lack in that department.

It would be imprudent to assume that no one votes for the bottom of the ticket. Maybe that was the case in the past. But, this is a very historically different race, on many levels, and the female factor should not be underestimated.

Obama was propelled into the national consciousness by an amazing speech at the 2004 convention, and has a truly inspiring back-story and way of stirring voters. Palin may or may not do the same, but no one know yet. Meanwhile, Obama can only attack her and McCain on policy choices and how they impact the American population.

Obama took a risk in not choosing a woman who captured 18 million primary votes as VP, and then not explaining why. McCain seized on that omission by choosing the relatively unknown Palin as a result. Obama must now walk a fine line. He can criticize what Palin has done, or believes. But he must recognize her for the historic choice (to take a page from McCain’s ad on Thursday congratulating Obama) she is. That could be the only way to capture the millions of female voters across the country, many of which, yes, voted for Hillary and haven’t yet decided on Obama.

McCain will praise Palin’s qualities as much as he will praise Hillary’s accomplishments. He and she will extol women’s suffrage with extreme political zeal. It may be theatrical, it may be pandering—but political pandering is a very effective path to victory. And, it requires a revised game plan for Obama.

—Nomi Prins


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