Commentary Magazine


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What Is Ahead

There are many more questions coming out of the conventions than answers. The two most significant are whether Barack Obama has forfeited his “change” argument with the selection of Joe Biden and whether John McCain has sacrificed his experience one by choosing Sarah Palin. I tend to think the answer is “Not really” to both. Obama is still running for the top of the ticket and McCain for the top of his. Obama still has to clear the bar as national security and McCain still must demonstrate he isn’t George W. Bush.

But the wild card is, of course, Sarah Palin. She disrupts the flow of the election in multiple ways. First, the Obama camp has confessed to running a turnout election, in part banking on a depressed Republican turnout. Problem: the Republicans are the least depressed group of people in America now. Indeed, they are in a state of Palin-induced elation. Second, no one has a clue really which segments of the Hillary Clinton vote are now up for grabs. I maintain that hard-core Democratic pro-choice voters aren’t in play, but female Reagan Democrats and apolitical women are. Third, Palin bolsters McCain’s maverick and change themes significantly. Her record, her outsider-ness and, yes, her gender give the McCain-Palin camp a large boost in the “not like other politicians” moniker. More so than the selection of Biden, the selection of Palin has muddied Obama’s monopoly on the change theme.

Then, to quote Donald Rumsfeld, we then have the unknown unknowns–those things yet to pop up. Will there be another international crisis, a mega-gaffe in a debate, or a new discovery either about Obama or Palin? Unkown. It does on one hand seem that this race has been going on forever. But this week showed we are in entirely uncharted territory.