Posted by Brad @ 5:30 pm on June 28th 2008

Sarah Palin for VP

Michael Tanner at Cato has written a piece taking aim at McCain VP shortlister Tim Pawlenty, on the grounds that his record as Governor has been pretty far from small-l libertarian, more in line with a mainstream Northeastern Democrat then anything that could reasonably be described as small government conservative. I don’t find the piece very persuasive—it seems pretty run-of-the-mill stuff for a popular Republican governor of a blue state, and most of it is “under his watch” stuff more then things he actively pushed—but it’s getting some play, and I do think it adds to the impression that Pawlenty, who most consider the most likely VP nominee, is a fairly uninspired choice. Perfectly passable, of course, but given that even his geographic pull might not bring his state with him, exactly nobody seems exciting about the possibility of Pawlenty (though nobody, Tanner aside, would seem to fault McCain much for the choice). The Wall Street Journal did a more thorough profile of Pawlenty here.

Add to this the fact that Huckabee is doing his own thing, Bobby Jindal is looking crazier and crazier (and crazier), Charlie Crist is still gay, Carly Fiorina‘s trial balloon never really took off, and nobody else obvious is coming to the top, some of the choices like perpetual VP-leg-humper Mitt Romney and Mark Sanford are probably seeing their stock rising (Sanford I think ought to also be looking better, if he’s under consideration at all, given Obama’s threatening strength in the South).

I’ll go on record with this though: the best possible person McCain could choose to balance out his ticket is Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. If he really wanted to take a bold swipe at Obama, he ought to not just choose her, but choose her before Obama names his VP—sooner rather then later. Choosing Palin automatically generates incredible buzz, gets McCain on top of several newscycles (and he could use more then a few weeks of steering the news coverage, lest he gets lost in the shuffle and Obama’s bounce keeps growing and calcifying), generates a honeymoon media tour of the very media-lovable Palin, and what’s more, puts Obama on the defensive and in some important ways starts to force his hand a bit on his own VP selection. What’s more, she passes the test of a very strong future Republican nominee, whether McCain wins or loses, who will please a lot of conservative voters who otherwise might not be thrilled with a McCain candidacy (and also make sure Alaska stays red; there is at least some chance that Barr turns it blue this year). The more I think about it, the more I think McCain would be nuts to not go for Palin. (Ed Morissey concurs).

6 Comments »

  1. The base case for Pawlenty made by Republicans I’ve talked to lies in the claim that Minnesota is a must-win state; that there is no electoral math that gets the Republicans over the top that doesn’t include Minnesota. I don’t know how much I buy into it, but if the claim is true, it more or less locks Pawlenty in.

    Comment by Rojas — 6/28/2008 @ 7:45 pm

  2. I guess I’m not sure that I buy into the notion that any state, at least at this point, is a “must-win”, and I’m not all that convinced that McCain, if he wants to be overly-geographically concerned, ought not be more focused on PA/OH/MI then MN/WI.

    But also, I’m a pretty strong believer at this point that the whole VP-for-the-sake-of-his-state thing is a great big waste of time. It hasn’t really worked as it’s supposed to since Kennedy/Johnson. Worse then a waste of time, it might even be counterproductive, because it can run counter to more ephemeral but perhaps more important concerns. I think, for instance, that Bush’s picking of Cheney—one of the more politically savvy choices in my lifetime—probably bought him a lot more states then had he picked some random person from some state that seemed really important at the time.

    If McCain is in a position where he needs the extra 3-5% that Pawlenty might buy him to win Minnesota, he’s probably lost the election already. The truth is McCain can’t really afford to run a “stand still and hold your ground” campaign. Hoping to eek by on the margins of 8 states isn’t going to do it, I don’t think (Minnesota, for instance, if that’s one of those 8, already starts at a baseline -13 for McCain). I think it still hasn’t sunk in yet with Republican strategists that the regular playbook probably isn’t going to cut it, because of A. the massive GOP brand problems, and B. Obama being the opponent.

    Palin, I would think, would automatically give McCain a few percentage points among women nationally, independents, and that mythical 20% small-l libertarian vote. It also, as I said, cuts into Obama advantages in all those areas, and just as importantly, gives the McCain campaign a bit of an aura of “something different”. I think a traditional choice like Pawlenty, or Romney, would actually hurt the McCain brand because it’ll be one big yawn, and if there’s one thing the McCain campaign needs to move away from, it’s being a yawn-inducing “placeholder Republican opponent” sort of affair, which to my mind is the #1 danger he faces. He needs to try somehow to not just make this election a referendum on Obama specifically and the GOP generally, because if it’s that, he loses, no question. And make no mistake, that’s where this campaign is headed barring some outside-the-box plays from Team McCain.

    Comment by Brad — 6/28/2008 @ 8:03 pm

  3. If I recall (don’t quote me on this) a McCain-Pawlenty ticket doesn’t poll all that strongly in Minnesota. On the other hand, a McCain-Jindal ticket does very well in that state. Palin is very similar to Jindal, and a Northerner to boot. Hence, Palin gives McCain a better chance of flipping Minnesota (not to mention Michigan, Oregon, etc.) than does Pawlenty (see my full analysis of this dynamic at http://palinforvp.blogspot.com/2008/06/geographic-argument-for-palin.html)

    Anyway, the real reason I stopped by was to thank you for your endorsement and let you know that you are now on our blogroll. Also, if you want to be fully plugged in to the Draft Palin Movement,I would recommend getting on the mailing list by emailing me at palinforvp@gmail.com.

    Thanks,
    Adam Brickley
    Founder, “Draft Sarah Palin for Vice President”
    palinforvp.blogspot.com

    Comment by Adam Brickley — 6/29/2008 @ 2:10 am

  4. Oh…and I just found out that Blogger.com is not being cooperative tonight and won’t let me update the blogroll. I’ll get you on the Endorsements list as soon as I can.

    Comment by Adam Brickley — 6/29/2008 @ 2:13 am

  5. Good geographic post there. That’s basically what I was getting at in my response to Rojas: Pawlenty may be a surefire +3 or whatever in Minnesota (and nowhere else), but there’s no reason to suspect that a stronger VP choice might also get a +3 in Minnesota, and other places as well. The old-line state-specific geographic VP strategy is just short-sighted and lazy, to my mind, at least in a situation like this (if you’re Kennedy, and Johnson can bring you Texas for sure, that’s a tad different).

    And the more I think about it, the more I want to reiterate this:

    …just as importantly, [it] gives the McCain campaign a bit of an aura of “something different”. I think a traditional choice like Pawlenty, or Romney, would actually hurt the McCain brand because it’ll be one big yawn, and if there’s one thing the McCain campaign needs to move away from, it’s being a yawn-inducing “placeholder Republican opponent” sort of affair, which to my mind is the #1 danger he faces. He needs to try somehow to not just make this election a referendum on Obama specifically and the GOP generally, because if it’s that, he loses, no question. And make no mistake, that’s where this campaign is headed barring some outside-the-box plays from Team McCain.

    Thinking on it, the other thing that’s striking is how few opportunities for big plays McCain is going to have. He’s not a consistent enough speaker to be relied on to hit homeruns in every debate or big appearance (chances are, he’ll have just as many ugly swing-and-misses on those grounds as hits). And the excitement around Obama, though that will turn on him (Obama) now and then, is at some point almost a self-sustaining narrative. McCain’s just got his bus and a few dozen reporter chums going for him on that front.

    It (making standard, safe plays) also exactly plays into his big narrative weaknesses; that McCain is old and just more of the same thing. I don’t think Pawlenty will make people consciously think that, but ephemerally, it sets that tone, and more then anything, is a missed opportunity to not feed into that (or to break out of it).

    My growing sense is McCain is going to have precious few chances to break out of the box. And other then sitting around and waiting for Obama to implode (which didn’t work for Clinton, who started 30 friggin’ points ahead of Obama no less), that’s exactly what he has to do if he wants some ability to shape his own campaign’s destiny. There are only two big plays I can think of: a bold VP choice, and perhaps a one-term pledge. Doing both of those things, for instance, would radically re-shape the general election race. And I sure can’t think of much else from McCain’s end that will.

    (For the sake of clarity, it should be noted that I’m already presupposing that McCain is starting with the losing hand, but I’m pretty comfortable with that)

    Comment by Brad — 6/29/2008 @ 4:47 pm

  6. Actually, playing armchair campaign manager, that’s exactly what I would advise McCain to seriously consider doing. Sarah Palin for VP, one-term pledge, focus on holding the South and taking the industrial Midwest and rust belt.

    Comment by Brad — 6/29/2008 @ 4:50 pm

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