Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin Alters Election Dynamics

The political world remains abuzz this morning over the impact of John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate.

Palin appeared confident and poised in accepting her nomination Friday in Dayton, Ohio (below), and
the GOP's conservatives base is absolutely ecstatic with the pick.

CNN reports that Palin's pick is an electoral game-changer:

The McCain campaign calls her a "tough executive who has demonstrated" readiness to be president. The Republican National Committee calls her a "conservative star with the talent, energy and family support necessary to carry out common sense policies."

But the Obama campaign calls her a candidate with "the thinnest foreign policy experience in history" who is "currently under investigation in her own state." And one of the Senate's top Democrats, Charles Schumer, said that although she is "a fine person, her lack of experience makes the thought of her assuming the presidency troubling."

What do we know about Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old first-ever female governor of Alaska, wife and mother of five, and now GOP vice presidential nominee?

On Friday, a new part of her identity dominated the political scene: game-changer.

She enters an already historic election, knowing well two of the biggest things McCain needs her to do: shore up votes among social conservatives and win over disaffected Hillary Clinton-supporting Democrats, many of them women.
Social conservatives are already on board, so what's up with the gender vote? Certainly many will find the Palin pick a condescending appeal to women (many of whom may not warm to Palin's frontier family values), but Gallup reports that Palin may help McCain win over white women independents:

White Republicans overwhelmingly support McCain over Obama, and that doesn't differ meaningfully by gender. White Democrats overwhelmingly support Obama, and that too doesn't vary by gender. But there is a big swing in support by gender among independents -- individuals who in response to an initial party identification question say they do not identify with either party. White male independents go strongly for McCain, by a 16-point margin, while white female independents are evenly divided, 41% for Obama and 42% for McCain. This represents a 15-point swing by gender in candidate support.
The Gallup data offer a promising line of appeal for the GOP, and if the extreme reaction to Palin on the left is any indication, it's clear that the Democrats willl have their hands full trying to keep not only their momentum coming out of Denver, but their monopoly on change as well.