DAYTON, Ohio — Today, the Republican Party indicated it will very likely do something it has never done before: nominate someone who isn’t a white male for the nation’s second highest office. As both Sen. John McCain and his now-presumed vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, both noted in their remarks before a full house at Wright State University’s Ervin J. Nutter Center, today marks the 88th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the United States.
Of course, the Democratic Party only yesterday nominated an African-American for the highest office in the land, so it’s hard to view the Republican move as anything but a reaction to yesterday’s history-making events. Still, Palin acknowledged Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s also-historic bid for the Democratic nomination, vowing to pick up where Clinton, and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, left off.
“It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. It turns out, the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.”
To McCain’s credit, he apparently did not factor the electoral map into his calculation. Alaska is a safely Republican state with just three electoral votes. McCain is gambling that Palin will attract both pro-life conservatives and some disaffected Clinton supporters and moderate women. The gamble carries significant risks, as Palin was, until today, a virtual unknown nationally. She also has a short resume — she was only elected governor in 2006. Prior to that, Palin served as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska — population 7,800 — from 1996 to 2002. This could also prove a benefit, as Palin doesn’t have a very extensive record for Democrats to pore over for ammunition.
Much of Palin’s speech was devoted to introducing herself and her family to the public. She took the stage joined by her husband, Todd, and four of the couple’s five children — the fifth is in the Army, deploying soon to Iraq. She said Todd is a commercial fisherman, a production operator in Alaska’s North Slope oil fields as well as a member of the United Steelworkers. Their youngest child was born in April.
McCain has certainly injected an element of surprise into the race — clearly one of his goals. My personal initial reaction, after watching Palin giver her first speech as McCain’s running mate, is that it’s hard to picture her as vice president — and even harder to imaginer her being “one heartbeat” away from the presidency, as the saying goes. She seems like a very nice lady, but it looks like she’d have a tough time going head to head with Sen. Joe Biden in a debate. It’s also unclear how much former Clinton supporters will rally around Palin. Perhaps she will surprise us all, but McCain just gave the Democrats a big opening to hammer him on the “experience” issue, which is the central pillar of his campaign, and it could raise more concerns about McCain’s age. Just last week, McCain vowed that whoever he picked would be “ready to lead,” presumably on Day One. The Democrats don’t have many worries about Obama’s No. 2 — but Republicans and independents will probably have a few questions about McCain’s choice.
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