Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

MSM's diverging story lines on Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin has become something of a Rorschach of the mainstream media's interpretation of what is at stake in this presidential race.

Time lays out the positive case for the pick:

John McCain needs to persuade swing voters that he's willing to take on the Republican establishment. He needs to persuade conservatives that he isn't squishy about social issues. And he needs to close the gender gap. When you think about it, the real surprise about Sarah Palin's selection as his running mate is that it's such a surprise.

Palin may be an obscure 44-year-old first-term governor and mother of five from tiny Wasilla, Alaska, but in many ways she reinforces John McCain's narrative of a maverick conservative crusader.

Jonathan Alter at Newsweek is not impressed, though:

Happy birthday, Johnny Mac! You're 72 now, a cancer survivor, and a presidential candidate who has said on many occasions that the most important criteria for picking a vice president is whether he or she could immediately step in if something happened to the president. Your campaign against Barack Obama is based on the simple idea that he is unready to be president. So you've picked a running mate who a year and a half ago was the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a town of 8,500 people. You've selected a potential leader of the free world who knows little or nothing about the major issues of the day beyond energy. Oh, and she's being probed in her state for lying and abuse of power.

The Wall Street Journal highlights how different this election is than others:

Most years, vice-presidential picks end up having little concrete impact on the outcome. Voters usually tell pollsters they care little about the second name on the ticket. But the 2008 race, already unusual in other ways, could be an exception, because both choices are meant to deal with key issues the presidential candidates haven't been able to solve on their own.

The choices are mirror images in some ways. Sen. Obama, a youthful candidate promoting "change" above all, chose in Sen. Joe Biden a gray-haired career Washington politician with commander-in-chief gravitas reminiscent of his Republican opponent -- but who may weaken that campaign message for many voters. Sen. McCain's pick, like Sen. Obama, is an outsider who would represent a demographic breakthrough if elected -- and like the Democrat, is short on conventional political experience.

The New York Times wavers between the message of bold and risky with respect to McCain's judgment on the one hand and praising Palin's charm on the other. Peter Baker highlights the central message issue for McCain, who...

...spent the summer arguing that a 40-something candidate with four years in major office and no significant foreign policy experience was not ready to be president. And then on Friday he picked as his running mate a 40-something candidate with two years in major office and no significant foreign policy experience.

Some of Baker's colleagues report on her incredible appeal with people:

“She wouldn’t have articulated one coherent policy and people would just be fawning all over her,” said Andrew Halcro, a Republican turned independent, who along with Tony Knowles, a Democrat, ran against Ms. Palin for governor in 2006. “Tony and I looked at each other and it was, like, this isn’t about policy or Alaska issues, this is about people’s most basic instincts: ‘I like you, and you make me feel good.’ ”

“You know,” said Mr. Halcro, invoking the Democratic presidential nominee, “that’s kind of like Obama.”

And that strikes me as the potential of Sarah Palin to help John McCain. The Democrats have gone on and on about the fact that McCain had only met her once. Exactly! She basically replicated with him the experience that voters in Alaska have had with her. She's not at the top of the ticket, but the Palin announcement within hours took the media coverage away from Obama right after he made one of the best speeches of his life. She'll face some tough media scrutiny in the coming days and a test in the debates with Joe Biden, but she will be formidable on the campaign trail. People across the country will want to meet her. Whether she can get in front of enough people to overcome the negative coverage that is coming is another question.

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