Republicans including, I imagine, Sen. McCain himself are asking these questions
about his selection of a vice presidential candidate.
Ideally, a presidential candidate wants a running mate who will help him or her win
the election, and (maybe) to govern afterwards. But most will settle for a veep who
isn't a drag on the ticket, as Dan Quayle was for the first President Bush.
Traditionally, a presidential nominee has chosen a running mate to balance the
ticket geographically, or to appease a faction of the party. The most successful
example of this was when John F. Kennedy picked Lyndon Johnson, though neither liked
the other, and LBJ joined the ticket only because he thought Kennedy would lose.
Bill Clinton broke with this tradition when he chose another young (purported)
moderate from a neighboring southern state. By picking Al Gore, he hoped to
reinforce his campaign theme of generational change.
Which way will Sen. McCain go? The potential running mates most often discussed have
downsides nearly as great as their upsides. Gov. Tim Pawlenty helps only in
Minnesota, and not enough, according to current polls, to make a difference there.
Sen. McCain's friend Sen. Joe Lieberman would bring in some moderate Democrats, but
could further antagonize conservatives already suspicious of Sen. McCain. Gov.
Romney would have little appeal to working class whites unhappy with Sen. Obama, and
evangelicals fret about that Mormon thing. A Huckabee nomination would irritate
economic and foreign policy conservatives as much as it would please evangelicals.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is a rising star. But he's only 36, and he's been
governor for less than a year.
There is one potential running mate who has virtually no down side. Those
conservatives who've heard of her were delighted to learn that McCain advance man
Arthur Culvahouse was in Alaska recently, because they surmised he could only be
there to discuss the vice presidential nomination with Gov. Sarah Palin.
At 44, Sarah Louise Heath Palin is both the youngest and the first female governor
in Alaska's relatively brief history as a state. She's also the most popular
governor in America, with an approval rating that has bounced around 90 percent.
This is due partly to her personal qualities. When she was leading her underdog
Wasilla high school basketball team to the state championship in 1982, her teammates
called her "Sarah Barracuda" because of her fierce competitiveness.
Two years later, when she won the "Miss Wasilla" beauty pageant, she was also voted
"Miss Congeniality" by the other contestants.
Sarah Barracuda. Miss Congeniality. Fire and nice. A happily married mother of
five who is still drop dead gorgeous. And smart to boot.
But it's mostly because she's been a crackerjack governor, a strong fiscal
conservative and a ferocious fighter of corruption, especially in her own party.
Ms. Palin touches other conservative bases, some of which Sen. McCain has been
accused of rounding. Track, her eldest son, enlisted in the Army last Sept. 11.
She's a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association who hunts, fishes and runs
marathons. A regular churchgoer, she's staunchly pro-life.
Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal said Sen. McCain should run against a
corrupt, do-nothing Congress, a la Harry Truman. If he should choose to do so, Gov.
Palin would make an excellent partner
"The landscape is littered with the bodies of those who have crossed Sarah,"
pollster Dave Dittman told the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes.
Sen. Barack Obama's support has plunged recently among white women. Many Hillary
Clinton supporters accuse him I think unfairly of being sexist. Having Sarah
Palin on the ticket could help Sen. McCain appeal to these disgruntled Democrats.
Running mates usually aren't named until the convention. But if Sen. McCain should
name Gov. Palin earlier, it would give America more time to get to know this
extraordinary woman. And because she's at least a dozen feature stories waiting to
be written, she could help him dominate the news between now and the conventions.
Another reason for selecting Sarah Palin early would be to force Barack Obama to
make a mistake. He'd have to rule out choosing someone like Virginia Sen. Jim Webb
as his running mate, for fear of exacerbating charges of sexism. And if he chose a
woman other than Hillary, the impression Democrats are wimpy would be intensified.