The video footage of McCain’s speech at the Republican rally in Dayton, Ohio last night is more interesting for the out-of-focus faces standing behind the podium than for McCain’s performance. As McCain mentions that his Veep pick was once a mayor and is now a governor, cheers resound around the stadium; yet the predominant poses struck by those standing behind McCain are of shocked confusion.
As it becomes clear that the Vice Presidential candidate will be a woman, one female member of the audience behind McCain gasps with a mixture of elation and surprise.
Until just minutes before Palin was announced as McCain’s running mate, no-one even guessed that the Alaskan governor could so suddenly have been launched onto the national—and even international—arena.
If this sudden exposure was a nerve-wracking experience for Palin, she didn’t show it. Confident, focused and determined, she stole the spotlight away from Obama’s convention speech as soon as she walked to the podium. The trouble for the McCain campaign is that she may also steal the spotlight from him. Standing next to her, McCain looked rather stiff and even a little older than normal.
Palin’s charming demeanour is a breath of fresh air for McCain’s campaign, and initial reactions of excitement are inevitable. As the dust settles over the next few days and weeks, however, American voters will want to know more about the woman currently under investigation in her own state. Though she may have the charm to woo Clinton supporters with her image, her pro-life, pro-guns and anti-gay marriage stances may prevent a significant swing in her favour. The emotive factor of these issues cannot be underestimated.
McCain now has some contemporaneous evidence to back up his recent TV and online ads depicting him as a maverick. Though we might not know until polling day whether the choice of Palin has been one of the shrewdest or one of the most foolish political moves in recent American history, Obama and Biden are correct in thinking that she “will add a compelling new voice to this campaign”. All eyes will be on Palin at the Republican convention next week.
By Robert Black