I knew it. I just knew that McCain would put a woman on his ticket. There’s no doubt that his risky pick in Sarah Palin has raised a number of eyebrows from media outlets and the public alike – especially in response to accusations that she used undue influence in trying to fire a state trooper and her acknowledgment that her 17-year-old unwed daughter is 5 months preggos. McCain is taking a BIG CHANCE. But do the potential pay-offs justify the risks? Let’s see…
1) PAY-OFF: Inexperience
As a Washington outsider, Palin’s freshness and youthfulness could serve as an asset for McCain and possibly energize the younger voters and those disillusioned by political “business-as-usual” practices in Washington.
By putting someone on the ticket with less than two years of executive experience and zero-foreign policy experience, he has limited his ability to attack Barack on his lack of experience. McCain’s number one attack on Obama is that he would not be ready on day one. We could ask Sarah Palin the same question. Untested on the national stage (including the fact that she’s never been on a Sunday morning show), more allegations about Palin may come to light and McCain’s judgment will be questioned in the process.
2) PAY-OFF: History
McCain is making a move to counteract Barack’s message of history and turn women out to vote for McCain. This move could potentially bring more women into the party.
There is a possibility that not all Republicans will be thrilled about the “history” argument. Just as there were West Virginia Democrats that would not vote for Barack based on race, there may be Republicans that will not want to support Palin based on gender. They may tell pollers that they’d support a woman on the ticket, but in the privacy of the voting booth – with the thought of a woman president – they may change their minds.
3) PAY-OFF: Court Disgrunted Clinton Voters
There are still many frustrated Clinton supporters up for grabs and McCain has been working hard with campaign ads to win them over. There is a possibility that he could pull over large numbers of Clinton supporters, who are passionate about breaking the glass ceiling, to his side.
RISK: Court Disgrunted Clinton Voters
Much speculation has been floating around about how McCain’s choice could push Clinton supporters to vote for him. But just as all Black Americans don’t blindly vote for a black candidate (case in point: Alan Keys), Clinton voters may not blindly vote for McCain. A recent New York Times/CBS News Poll conducted just before the convention found that 6 in 10 of the roughly 18 million voters who supported Mrs. Clinton in the Democratic contest would support Mr. Obama. These numbers may have increased after Hillary Clintons speech at the convention. What’s more, McCain’s attempt to pander to Clinton supporters may backfire. Many may be insulted by the fact that McCain believes that Palin is comparable to Clinton just because both happen to be female. Clinton supporters may also question Palin’s views on reproductive rights and pay equity.
4) PAY-OFF: Mother
Palin’s compelling story as a mother of 5 may be able to win over the “hockey moms” contingent and make her more relatable to suburbanites that care deeply about family values issues. She may also be seen as a heroine for working mothers who are struggling to pull off the work-home balance.
The fact that Palin has 5 children, including a child born in April with Down syndrome and a pregnant daughter, could concern many Republicans and Democrats alike. Studies have shown that women with young children have a harder time winning elections because voters are wary of the toll it will take on their children. A young child with Down syndrome will have significant needs and raises critical questions about whether she can handle the job and take care of her maternal responsibilities.
While I believe that speaking about Palin's daughter should remain off-limits, it is a legitimate question to ask whether she has the judgment and the wisdom to potentially serve as Commander-and-Chief. Her decision to knowingly subject her pregnant daughter to public scrutiny as well as a disturbing revelation that she boarded an 8-hour flight while having labor pains may speak to her poor judgment.
5) PAY-OFF: Maverick Image
McCain sees Palin as a fellow maverick for breaking away from her state’s Republican establishment and defeating one of Alaska’s elder statesmen, Frank Murkowski, in 2006. She has become popular in the state for advocating for tough ethical standards for politicians and passing a state ethics law overhaul. Palin supports McCain’s image as reformer and fights against the Obama campaign’s perception as him as “more of the same.” The maverick image could help McCain build more support amongst independent voters who are tired of Bush but not fully on board with Barack Obama.
RISK: Maverick Image
Recent articles noting an ethical investigation against Palin, her consistent ideological support for Republican principles and allegations that she directed indicted Senator Ted Steven’s 527 group – may indicate that the “maverick image” will not stick for long.
This pick could provide great rewards for McCain and the Republican party at large, but the question is whether the rewards outweigh the risks?