Sunday, August 31, 2008
MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL -- Bingo.
For weeks, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been the Republican whom conservatives barely dared to hope could become John McCain's pick as his running mate.
For Republicans angry at Washington's big-spending bonanza when Republicans controlled the White House and Congress, Palin, like McCain, is an antidote. She is the Alaskan who pulled state support for the infamous Bridge to Nowhere and bucked Alaska's congressional and state Republican leaders.
For social conservatives, the mother of five has impeccable credentials. She's a member of Feminists for Life, who walked the walk in April when she gave birth to a son, shown by genetic testing to have Down syndrome. "I'm looking at him right now, and I see perfection," she said of her son, Trig. "Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?"
For conservatives, who felt that McCain has been at times too cozy with the Washington left, Palin is a conservative's conservative -- a moose hunter and co-owner of a commercial fishing operation.
As an Alaskan, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Her husband works for BP on an Alaska oil field. Yet, as the Almanac of American Politics has reported, she stood up to Big Oil when she supported a natural gas pipeline instead of an oil pipeline backed by the state's major petroleum interests. McCain has been too much of a wishful thinker when it comes to energy policy. Palin could champion a more grounded approach to energy.
As a female candidate, Palin just might attract disgruntled Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters -- or at least give them pause before voting for the Obama-Biden ticket.
After Barack Obama picked Joe Biden as his running mate, I began to steel myself for the possibility that McCain might make a similarly uninspiring, but seemingly safe, choice. The top pick of Beltway insiders was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a strong campaigner with solid economic credentials -- but flawed by what seemed an opportunistic shift to the right on social issues in order to win the GOP primary. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge supports abortion rights -- a plus for me -- but he likely would be the butt of late-night talk-show jokes because of the color-coded federal warning system devised to alert Americans to the likelihood of terrorist attacks when he was director of Homeland Security. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty looked OK -- but he wasn't Sarah Palin.
Is she short on experience? Yes. Voters will have to watch her performance on the campaign trail to judge how she responds to high-stakes politics and the international arena.
That said, as a governor, Palin she has more experience running a government than Obama, who began serving his first term in the U.S. Senate in 2005. And unlike Obama, Palin has shown herself willing to challenge her jaded ethical policies within her party. That's change.
As McCain said Friday, Palin is "exactly who this country needs" to help him confront "the same old Washington politics of me first and country second."
On the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, she investigated fellow commission member Randy Ruedrich, the state Republican Party chairman, in an effort that led to his resignation and paying a $12,000 fine levied by Alaska's attorney general. In 2006, she ran against the incumbent Republican governor, Frank Murkowski -- and won.
She is not a hard-core social conservative. For example, Palin supported awarding benefits for same-sex couples. But she is a good fiscal conservative, who used her veto power to reduce her state's budget by $124 million.
Palin is a maverick, like he's a maverick. She complements McCain's ardent opposition, not only to congressional earmarks, but also to the pork-rich farm bill and ethanol subsidies supported by Obama.
Pollster Frank Luntz told me in Denver that the key to victory for McCain is to trumpet one theme -- "accountability." McCain, he said, should promise government that does what it is supposed to do, punishes bad actors who break the rules and ends "wasteful Washington spending." On that score, Palin was made to order.
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