29 August 2008

Opinion: Smashing the glass ceiling or running into a brick wall?

In selecting Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain has changed the whole dynamic of the 2008 election. It’s easy to imagine the Obama team squirming with discomfort at the choice of a woman running against them, especially one who has already shown she is happy to use Hillary Clinton’s attempt to smash the ‘glass ceiling’ of male dominated American politics as a weapon with which to bash Obama. Clearly Governor Palin was chosen as a direct response to Clinton not being on the ticket, a savvy move by the increasingly organised McCain campaign.

The biggest surprise is not that Palin was chosen, but why she wasn’t being talked about earlier. A pro-life, card-carrying member of the NRA whose son is about to serve in Iraq, she enjoys a near 80% approval rating in Alaska. Furthermore, simply by being a woman she has a chance to steal a significant minority of Clinton support, though her opposition to abortion rights may be a problem for many pro-choice Clinton followers. She is a potential antidote to what may seem like a rather dull Republican convention in Minnesota after all the excitement in Denver. Expect to hear the phrases ‘Hockey mom’ and ‘Washington outsider’ a lot, as The McCain-Palin ticket tries to portray itself as a Maverick brand of experience and change, on a mission to shake up Washington. However despite all the positives of Palin she could also damage the Republican campaign. Not only could her Conservative track-record scare off some independents looking for bi-partisanship, but her thin resume could also cause a problem. As well as leaving a relatively inexperienced candidate a breath away from the Presidency, it also causes issues with McCain attacking Obama on experience. As well as these issues she is also under-investigation in an ethics probe for dismissing a top law enforcement official seemingly because he failed to sack a state trooper who had divorced her sister. Expect this issue to be exploited in an attempt to damage Palin’s reputation as maverick who fights corruption.

The Gallup Daily Tracking poll showed Obama eight points up nationally 49% to 41% yesterday. Although this was partly due to the bump from his choice of VP and the media attention from the Democratic convention it showed perhaps McCain needed to do something to grab the spotlight. There is no doubt this was it. What remains to be seen is whether Palin can successfully portray herself as an icon on the level of Hillary Clinton and give McCain a foothold in what is essentially a change election, or whether she becomes a liability whose appointment as running mate seems increasingly like a political ploy.

By Chris Tarquini

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